With 15.5 seconds left in L.A.’s Sunday contest against Boston, the Lakers held a one-point lead over their arch rivals, and looked not to Kobe Bryant nor Pau Gasol to seal the deal, but Andrew Bynum.
It was the team’s collective defense and then Kobe at the other end that put them in the position to get a win, which was in serious jeopardy after Ray Allen’s three-pointer put Boston up 94-89 with 2:41 to play. L.A. would go on to force six Celtics misses, holding Boston without a single point in the final two minutes and change, while doing this on offense:
1) Bryant fading jumper from 10 feet, 2:16 (91-94)
2) Bryant lob to Bynum for a tap in, 1:17 (93-94)
3) Bryant 14-foot pullup J, 41.7 (95-94)
After Brandon Bass missed a jumper, the Lakers had the ball, up one, with 32 seconds on the clock. During the time out, Bryant volunteered a play to Mike Brown, suggesting the Lakers get the ball to Bynum, who was being defended by Kevin Garnett. As Bryant explained after the game, Garnett remains a fantastic defender, but simply doesn’t have the mass to deal with Bynum.
“If the ball’s in my hands I’m going to put myself in a position to not get double teamed,” Bryant added. “In that situation I was trying to throw the ball to Andrew and put him in that situation I am normally in where the defense has to make a decision.”
With Bryant at the top of the key, the ball was swung to World Peace on the wing directly in front of Boston’s bench, with Bynum flashing to the middle of the paint. Peace floated a pass into Bynum, who simply caught it, turned to his left and dropped a right-handed hook over Garnett and into the hoop with 15.5 seconds to go.
One final stop, keyed by Gasol’s flashing out to keep Ray Allen from attempting a game-tying three, and Bryant getting apiece of Paul Pierce’s subsequent attempt, and L.A. had ridden an 8-0 run to a 97-94 victory.
Here’s what some of the Lakers had to say about the stretch, focusing on Bynum’s clutch bucket and Kobe’s idea to make it happen:
Andrew Bynum: “It was crazy. Kobe came up with that play. He said they’re not going to know what to do, and sure enough, the way they designed it, Kevin Garnett started guarding me on the top side by the three-point line. So, it definitely worked.”
Kobe Bryant: “Andrew just did his thing. He’s a player you have to focus on*.”
*When asked if the play was his idea, Kobe said: “100 percent. What do you think it was made up?”
Derek Fisher: “Not just from that decision today, I just think that Kobe has always continued in that evolution in terms of doing different things to try to get us to the top and trying to get us to a championship level team. I think that today is just another example of him realizing what it takes for us to win and to trust Andrew in that setting was huge for us … I believe we have always been pretty dangerous down the stretch because it’s difficult to decide what to do. In the past it has been Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol, myself, Kobe, Metta World Peace and it’s tough for teams to make a choice. Kobe has obviously always trusted his abilities but he has shown trust in his teammates at the most important time and so he did that again today.”
Pau Gasol: “It was a good sign of something positive. I think that we recognize and Kobe recognized that Andrew had an advantage and it was to hard stop and it was unexpected, probably and Boston probably didn’t expect it either because we are so used to Kobe taking that last shot no matter what. Andrew stepped up, he had a nice play, he had a very high percentage shot and scored.”
Mike Brown: “[Kobe] has suggested things where, because guys have been paying attention to him, that the ball go here or there. That to me is a mark of a great player.”