With time running out in the 2012-13 NBA regular season, Kobe Bryant scored 47 points to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to the much-needed 113-106 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers Wednesday night. The Black Mamba also tallied eight rebounds, five assists, four blocks and three steals.
In turn, Kobe proved that the Lakers are still as dangerous as ever.
Coming into the game, the Lakers owned a half-game lead over the Utah Jazz for the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference playoffs. Considering the Jazz own the tiebreaker over L.A., the Lakers could not and cannot afford to lose any ground.
Fortunately, Kobe pushed them to victory with a monster performance at the Rose Garden.
The Lakers now sit at 42-37 overall and have won five of their past six games. The 41-38 Jazz, meanwhile, are now a full game behind L.A.
At the end of the day, it was all on Kobe's extraordinary performance.
He is averaging a career high in assists this season, but as this performance makes clear, Bryant can still put up gaudy scoring numbers when the situation calls for it.
A Tale of Two Halves
After entering the 2012-13 season with sky-high expectations, the Lakers found themselves 17-25 after the first 42 games of the year. Suddenly, the thought of missing the playoffs wasn't such a laughable idea.
Since then, the Lakers are 25-12.
Perhaps most important of all, the Lakers are 14-2 in their past 16 games at the Staples Center. They're also 11-10 on the road in that time, which is up from a midseason mark of 5-15.
In other words, the Lakers—sixth in the NBA in scoring offense—are a drastically different team today than they were at 17-25. And they aren't fully healthy.
The Star Factors
No matter what their record may be, the Los Angeles Lakers are one of the most talented teams in the NBA. They have two former league MVPs, two Defensive Players of the Year and a former Sixth Man of the Year.
No matter how you cut it, the Lakers are an elite on-paper roster with the raw ability to win it all.
The key to the Lakers' success has been the MVP-caliber play of the legendary Kobe Bryant. Now in his 17th year in the league, Kobe has posted season averages of 27.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 1.4 steals per game.
There's also no denying how dominant players such as Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol can be, and each could lead L.A. to a series over a favored elite.
With that being said, there's only one Kobe Bryant.
Bryant is one of the greatest clutch performers in NBA history, specifically in the postseason. When he's on his game, he scores at a rate that few have ever been able to match.
Wednesday night's 47-point performance reminded us of just how dominant Kobe can be.