Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant has had a countless number of spotlight-stealing moments but they always seemed to matter a bit more when they happened in the playoffs. On April 25, 2009, Bryant had such a moment in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs against the Utah Jazz.
It was Game 4 of their best-of-seven series, and while the Lakers had won the first two games of the series at home, Game 3 was a very different story. They came up short thanks in part to a terrible shooting night from Bryant that saw him hit just 5-of-24 from the field.
As one could have expected, Bryant came out aggressive in the next contest, knowing that allowing the Jazz to tie the series at two games each would be a dangerous development. While the Lakers were the better team, the Jazz had enough talent to make life difficult on them.
Carlos Boozer had a strength advantage over Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom in the paint, a prime Deron Williams was one of the best point guards in the league, and Andrei Kirilenko was doing his best Swiss Army Knife impression by contributing just about everywhere.
However, Bryant was determined to not give Utah’s big three an opportunity to pull off an upset. In a classic performance, Bryant bounced back from the previous game by scoring 38 points on 16-for-24 shooting and hit all five of his free throws.
As a team, the Lakers put the Jazz on their heels when they exploded for 40 points in the second quarter, then secured the win by locking in defensively in the third, where they allowed just 16 Jazz points. The win put the Lakers up 3-1 in the series and pushed the Jazz to the brink of elimination.
Ultimately, the Lakers would surge in the playoffs and bring home their 15th NBA championship by defeating the Orlando Magic. It was nights like this one against the Jazz that helped them get there.
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