The career of Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant was filled with unforgettable performances and high-scoring games galore, one of which was the night Bryant dropped 40 points to lead L.A. to an easy victory in their playoff rematch against the Utah Jazz on Jan. 2, 2009.
The Lakers as a whole, but especially Bryant, were men on a mission that year. The team was out to make the rest of the league feel the pain they felt when they fell to the Boston Celtics in the 2008 NBA Finals.
And Bryant was out for blood against Utah, scoring his 40 points on just 23 shots while relentlessly baiting hapless Jazz defenders into fouls and going to the line 14 times, making 12.
Bryant also nailed two of his three 3-pointers and chipped in seven rebounds and four assists to go with two steals and a block, doing whatever he could to make sure the Jazz couldn’t find harmony on either end of the floor as the Lakers cruised to a 113-100 win over Utah.
The future Hall-of-Famer was a man possessed in general against Utah during that 2008-09 season, averaging 31 points on 47.8 percent shooting in three games against them. Bryant essentially made sure the Jazz didn’t get any ideas about thinking they had a shot against him and his Lakers team if the two sides were to meet again in the postseason.
Once the two sides actually met there, Bryant reminded them of that lesson, scoring 27.4 points per game over five games to go with five rebounds and 5.6 assists as the Lakers went on to complete a gentleman’s sweep of the Jazz.
Utah probably wasn’t thinking back to their January meeting against Bryant in that series, but for a competitor and maniacal and prepared as Bryant was throughout his career, it would be a shock if he wasn’t using that early 2009 contest as a test run for what he’d do to the Jazz in the postseason.
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