The “MVP! MVP!” chants went up in Portland, meant for a man on a playoff mission.
Kobe Bryant scored 47 points — a season high — in 48 minutes as he led/carried/willed the Los Angeles lakers to a 113-106 victory over the Trail Blazers on Wednesday night. The win was a big one for the Lakers, who now lead the Utah Jazz by a game in the battled for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot.
“We’ve got no breathing room at all,” Bryant said. “I’m still on edge. We’ve got to win three more games and we’re in.”
Bryant played the entire game, shooting 18-of-18 from the free-throw line and 14-of-27 from the floor. Pau Gasol had 23 points, nine assists and seven rebounds; Dwight Howard had 20 points and 10 rebounds. The Lakers have three regular-season games left (against Golden State, San Antonio and Houston), all in Staples Center.
For much of the game, Bryant was up against rookie Damian Lillard, who scored a career-high 38 points.
“He was out there cooking with gasoline,” Bryant said. “Lillard came out and just started torching us. I figured I would try to keep up the pace. It was like a marathon runner, when a guy just takes off, and the guy behind him doesn’t really want to chase after him but he has to just to keep pace.”
Afterward, Bryant paid tribute to Lillard on Twitter:
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) April 11, 2013
But no one could get past Bryant’s performance, even though there are serious doubt about how long the Lakers could last against the Spurs or Thunder in the playoffs.
“What he [Bryant] is doing is phenomenal. He’s determined to get us in the playoffs,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. “That’s what happens when you open your mouth and guarantee [as Bryant did] that we’ll get in the playoffs.”