Like millions of other people, I watched with delight as the Lakers squandered a 16-point lead in the third quarter of Sunday’s Western Conference Finals against the Denver Nuggets. And with 20.8 seconds left in the fourth quarter, that delight had transformed into an unparalleled bliss that I only experience when the Lakers suffer a humiliating defeat.
Nikola Jokic had just nailed a nasty hook shot over Anthony Davis, and in scoring the Nugget’s final 12 points, had seemingly secured the win. But hoop heads know that that’s entirely too much time left on the clock, and there’s always the likelihood for some late game heroics when you’re facing players like Davis and LeBron James.
Enter grizzled vet Rajon Rondo.
Rondo, or Playoff Rondo as he’s known in basketball lore, strolled his happy ass over to Davis and uttered these fateful words: “That’s all right, he scored on you. Now you go get it back.”
With 2.1 seconds left on the clock, and Denver’s win all but sown up, the 2008 NBA champ made the inbound pass from the bassline to Davis. Then this happened:
From my lavish Downtown Los Angeles dwelling all of two blocks from the epicenter of Lakers universe, the Staples Center arena, I fell to my knees and screamed at the heavens in anguish.
The Lakers emerged victorious and pulled out the 105-103 win.
Anthony Davis is a fucking asshole.
“I think I made eye contact with every player on my team on that play,” Rondo told reporters after the game. “My first look was [Kentavious Caldwell-Pope] backdoor. That wasn’t there. Danny [Green] backdoor. That wasn’t there. Bron and I looked eye-to-eye, but he didn’t move, and then I saw AD coming on the outside and just tried to get it to him on time, on target. I had [Jokic] on me, so obviously, I couldn’t throw the lob pass, and [Davis] did the rest.”
And yes, Davis yelled “Kobe!” after he snatched the still-beating heart out of the Nuggets’ chest. In part, because the entire organization has been hyperfocused on a championship ever since Bryant’s tragic death in January, but mainly because the Lakers are more inspired than ever to build on Bryant’s legacy.
“Obviously, we’re representing him,” Davis said. In true Black Mamba form, he scored 10 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter. “Especially in those jerseys. It’s his jersey, one he created, and any time we put it on, we want to win.”
The Lakers crushed the Nuggets in the their alternative “Black Mamba” uniforms, which they’re undefeated in while wearing so far this postseason. Kobe helped designed them years ago prior to his death. And not only are they dope as hell, but the team has drawn inspiration from Kobe while wearing them.
“He said, ‘Look at the jerseys you have on. He would have made big-time plays. So it’s time for us to make big-time plays,’” Davis said, paraphrasing what coach Frank Vogel told the team late in the fourth quarter. “Just looking down at the jersey and Coach telling us, it’s a constant reminder that Kobe is with us, and we kind of have the spirit in those jerseys.”
With Sunday’s defeat, the Nuggets fell to 0-2 in the best of seven series. But don’t think my disdain for all things Lakers has wavered because I have the utmost faith that the Nuggets will win the next four straight.
This Lakers hatred coursing through my veins refuses to relent.
Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals goes down on Tuesday.