11. Kobe v. Suns, April 26, 2007 (Western Conference 1st round)
45 points (15-26 FG), 6 rebounds, 6 assists
The Lakers and the Suns seemed diametrically opposed in 2007. It’s becoming increasingly clear that the 2007 Lakers team was a top-heavy roster mess; that’s what enabled many of the performances here on this list.
But the Phoenix Suns of this era were a precursor to the current Golden State Warriors. The Suns were a deep team with a roster full of contributors, led by an MVP point guard with uncanny handle (Steve Nash) and athletic, versatile big men (Amar’e Stoudemire, Shawn Marion) that pushed the tempo up and down the court, winning by increasing possessions. This was an entertaining and fluid form of basketball, and as a result the Suns entered the playoffs as a juggernaut.
In the first round series, the Suns were able to jump to an early two-game lead in Phoenix. This was not only due to the high scoring volume but the perimeter defense of Raja Bell, who was a premier example of the 3-and-D wing player in that era. Bell shut down Kobe in the first two games, including a 15-point effort in Game Two.
Seeing the series and the season slip away, Bryant wasn’t going to go down easily. In the first game at the Staples Center, Kobe went on a tear, dragging the Lakers from a 17-point deficit to a 3-point lead at the end of three quarters. Kobe’s 15-point fourth quarter sealed a victory, and staved off an elimination game when the Lakers needed it the most.