26. Kobe v. Celtics, June 17, 2010 (NBA Finals)
23 points (6-24 FG), 15 rebounds in clinching Game 7
There was a very strong consideration here for Kobe’s game against the Celtics on March 20, 2006, when he scored 43 (on 18-39 shooting) and recorded 5 steals. Either I choose …
a) … a classic 40+ point Kobe performance, but one that is fairly pedestrian for this list and that happened in a meaningless late-season matchup
b) … an objectively bad and inefficient offensive game, but one that was paired with a gritty performance in other aspects, included clutch free throws and happened on the biggest stage of Kobe’s career.
I chose to go with the latter. Bryant was able to nail down a victory over the Celtics, redeeming his loss to the team two years earlier in the NBA Finals. Game Sevens tend to be grinding, physical contests, and Kobe’s defense was just as good as his offense was bad. He limited Ray Allen to 13 points on 3-14 shooting, and pulled down 11 defensive rebounds from the shooting guard position.
Amazingly enough, he still led all scorers with 23 points. And even though the Lakers were outshot 40%-32% (yeesh), Los Angeles was able to win the rebounding battle 53-40 thanks largely to Kobe and Pau Gasol.