I don’t know if people should be using the word “killer” to describe Kobe Bryant’s Western Conference Finals performance. In 2010, a time when a current and former players in the NFL, NBA and NHL have been convicted of murder, it’s probably a poor choice of words. In leading the Lakers past the Suns in six games, however, Kobe Bryant once again proved why we struggle to come up with superlatives to describe his game. With six-game averages of 33.7 points, 8.3 assists, 7.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks, a 31-year-old Bryant elevated his play to G.O.A.T heights, and once again proved to the world that he’s the best active NBA player.
Let’s turn to Kevin Ding of the OC Registerfor more:
It was a long time ago that Kobe Bryant said there were just two killers in the NBA. Michael Jordan was still playing, which should answer both the when and who questions.
It was back then that Bryant sat in the locker room at the Rose Garden in Portland in the middle and best season of the Lakers’ 2000-02 three-peat, just before playing an elimination game against the Trail Blazers. An interview with Scottie Pippen came on the TV in the locker room, and Bryant half-listened.
Then he said to Pippen but really to himself: “This is your last day of work.”
The Lakers finished Pippen’s team that day in their first chance.
They did the same to the Phoenix Suns to end the Western Conference finals Saturday night.
This is what Bryant, the killer, does … and it was perfectly appropriate that he did so this time with blood on his hands. It was his own, which he actually likes because he feels that seeing it motivates him during games, from a first-quarter cut on his left ring finger.
But with the gold “E” in “LAKERS” on his chest splotchy with blood Saturday night, Bryant scored 11 of the Lakers’ last 14 points — and assisted on the only other field goal.
“He’s the best player in basketball,” Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. “And I don’t think it’s even close.”
With the victory, Bryant moved into a tie with Pippen for most playoff victories with the same coach — and he is literally the same, Phil Jackson: 110. Difference is that Bryant has many more days of work, starting Thursday night in the NBA Finals.
Bryant averaged 33.7 points, 8.3 assists, 7.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in perhaps the best playoff series he has ever played. He was magical in all three games in Phoenix, even though the Lakers lost two of those. Bryant hadn’t played a playoff game here since losing that Game 5 in 2007, after which he asked for the trade that he’s now glad never happened.
But that sort of unhappy ending to a series is now the clear aberration for Bryant, whom longtime teammate Derek Fisher said Saturday night “literally can will the ball in the basket” when necessary.
And to relish the opportunity to drive that dagger into the opponent so much, you need a rare coldness.
He did it down the stretch Saturday night. He has done it often in making the Lakers so heavy-footed when the opponent’s fingertips are all that’s left on the cliff.