As Kobe Bryant walked off the floor with his third injury of the night, it seemed that there was little hope for the Los Angeles Lakers. Bryant walked into the locker room after knocking down two free-throws while hobbling on a likely torn Achilles, which ended his 8-0 run to tie the game 109-109. He did everything he could to give his team a chance to win, and he would not return, ending with 34 points.
But Bryant's performance inspired the Lakers. Pau Gasol notched a triple-double with 26 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists, and his touch around the hoop allowed him to make plays for the Lakers down the stretch. Dwight Howard added 28 points of his own, and his late game free-throw raised the Lakers' lead to two as the Lakers topped the Warriors 118-116.
Throughout the game, there were certain aspects that both teams utilized in order to give them a shot to win.
Point guard scoring: After Damian Lillard dropped 38 points on the Lakers on Wednesday, it is clear that Los Angeles has trouble guarding the scoring point guard, which once again was evident against Golden State as Stephen Curry poured in 47 points. At halftime, Curry had 32 points, including six 3-pointers.
Offensive rebounding: The Warriors' offensive rebounding was the key to holding on to the lead for almost the entire game. Golden State had 15 offensive rebounds to the Lakers' three. With the Warriors being so aggressive on the offensive glass, it allowed them several second-chance points.
Free throws: The Lakers shot 50 free throws against the Warriors, who only shot 16. Howard made 14 of 22, and Bryant made 12 of 16. Getting to the free-throw line was the difference-maker for the Lakers, as it allowed them to get into a shooting rhythm and slow down the clock late in the game.
Three-pointers: For the Warriors, Curry hit nine 3-pointers, and the Warriors ended with 11 total. The Lakers hit 12 three's, including four from both Steve Blake, and Bryant. For both teams, the 3-pointers kept the floor spread and allowed the post-players to have more room to operate down low.
With the win over the Warriors, the Lakers remain one game ahead of the Utah Jazz for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. In light of Bryant's injury, however, holding on to the final spot will be much tougher than before.
Bryant has been diagnosed with a torn Achilles, and will have an MRI on Saturday. He was on crutches as he addressed the media.
"I can't walk," Bryant told ESPN. "I tried to maybe put pressure on my heel, but there was nothing there."2 comments on this story
Bryant seemed very emotional and close to tears as he reflected on his career, his season and his future. The Lakers players were very solemn as they spoke about Bryant.
"He's the greatest competitor, and he's been that all season long, all through his career," Gasol told ESPN. "He's been an example for us throughout all this. He showed character. He showed heart, and that's what we're going to need from now on."
"I hate it for Kobe," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said. "I hate it for us. I hate it for L.A."
The Lakers will play again on Sunday against the San Antonio Spurs. They will likely be without Bryant for the remainder of the season.
For additional Lakers and NBA news, you can follow Mitch Kunzler on Twitter at: @MitchKunzler