Kobe Bryant, once again, played the role of hero at Staples Center, as he led the Lakers in a comeback 98-95 win over the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night.
Bryant scored 32 points and took over the game in the fourth quarter before hitting a series of clutch free throws in the final minute.
Bryant started the game searching for his shot, as he started the night only 62 points behind Michael Jordan on the NBA's all-time scoring list. In the first quarter, Bryant attempted 10 of the Lakers' first 25 shots, but the "Black Mamba" only hit thrice. The 36-year-old would enter the locker room for the halftime intermission with 11 points on 13 shots, but the Lakers trailed by nine points.
To start the second half, Bryant elevated his game and made five of his first seven shots. The Lakers would trim the lead to two points after Bryant's flurry, and the Lakers tied the game twice before finishing the quarter down three points. However, LA was unable to take the lead.
In the fourth and final quarter, the Lakers fell behind by six points when the crowd grew restless and began to chant "We want Kobe."
Immediately, Lakers coach Byron Scott adhered to the crowd's request, and Bryant returned to the game with 6:45 remaining in the contest. Incredibly, all of the Lakers' points from that point forward would be directly tied to no. 24 in a vintage fourth quarter performance that won the game.
First, Bryant combined with Carlos Boozer and provided the power forward with an easy layup. Then, he found Wesley Johnson for a three-pointer. When his teammates struggled to make shots, Bryant turned recipient and dunked the ball home to bring the Lakers within one point. For his next trick, Bryant hit a three-pointer to tie the contest at 92-92.
For the Lakers' first lead of the second half, Bryant found Jordan Hill for a layup. With that, Bryant recorded his sixth assist for the game and third for the final quarter. After Darren Collison scored a reverse layup, Bryant earned a trip to the free throw line and restored a one-point Lakers' lead with 34.4 seconds to play.
A defensive stop resulted in Bryant holding the ball and being intentionally fouled. In clutch fashion, Bryant stepped up and made two more free throws to give the Lakers a three-point lead. Another solid defensive sequence, and the Lakers walked off victorious.
"He's one of the greatest to ever play," Lakers coach Byron Scott said after the game. "But I think we already knew that."
"He's a special player," Scott added. "Sometimes, I just shake my head at how he can continue to go out there and deliver."