After yet another masterful performance that edged the Los Angeles Lakers ever closer to a Playoff berth, one continues to marvel at Kobe Bryant’s will. While most observers expect the Lakers to either get destroyed in the first round, or not qualify for the postseason at all, Bryant believes in his team (and above all, himself). Kobe sees what the LA Kings and the New York Giants were able to pull off as underdogs in 2012, and thinks his squad can do something similar this season. Per CBS Sports: “‘There’s no secret,’ Bryant said. ‘There’s no magic formula. I watch what I eat and I train my ass off. I’m in the type of condition right now that, a lot of my predecessors at this age probably couldn’t do it.’ Not to mention a lot of much younger contemporaries. By winning in Portland, the Lakers spared themselves the added pressure of Friday night at home against Golden State being a virtual must-win. Had the Lakers lost to the Blazers and then the Warriors, they would’ve been one loss or a Utah win away from being eliminated. Now, with the Jazz holding the tiebreaker, the Lakers can get in by winning out no matter what Utah does. ‘When you’re battle-tested, you really figure out what your team is made of,’ Bryant said. ‘I think this is great for us. If we continue to work hard and things fall the way we expect them to and we’re in the postseason, I think going through type of pressure in these games will help prepare us for the postseason.’ Bryant is such a maniacal competitor, so obsessed with chasing that sixth championship, that you don’t know whether he’s found some motivational elixir or he’s fooling himself. Time will tell. But in a moment of reflection after the dust had settled on this virtuoso performance –one of the last masterpieces he knows he has left — Bryant said he still believes championship qualities lurk within the Lakers’ locker room. ‘It’s here,’ he said. ‘Definitely. Absolutely. A lot of teams would’ve folded tonight. Earlier in the year, with us not having the identity that we have and not knowing how we’re going to use each other, we probably would’ve lost this game.’ [...] ‘It’s about making the most out of it and turning it into a good situation,’ Bryant said. ‘I really lean on examples from other sports. The L.A. Kings and what they did last year and the Giants, what they were able to accomplish, going through a very tumultuous regular season and then putting things together at the right time. There’s things that you can lean on to look at how they were able to succeed.’”