NBA Playoffs 2012: Kobe Bryant Will Need a Superhuman Performance in Game 4

On Friday, Kobe Bryant took "hero ball" to new heights in the 2012 NBA Playoffs. He'll need an encore presentation for his Lakers to knot the series up with Kevin Durant’s Oklahoma City Thunder.

Bryant put on a magnificent display in the game’s final period, exploding for 14 of his 36 points with an array of post moves and up-and-unders. He coupled that with a free-throw clinic in which he went 18-for-18 and hit eight in the final three-and-a-half minutes.

Even LeBron had to be amazed by Kobe’s mastery at the charity stripe.

Bryant seemed like a man amongst boys battling the Thunder wings for position in the post throughout the fourth quarter. Déjà vu happened over and over again as No. 24 outworked his defender on the right block and continued to fill it up.

Kobe wasn’t the only Laker who cashed in from the free-throw line. Andrew Bynum had 11 free throws of his own, which added to the Lakers’ series-best 41 points from the line. The Thunder, in comparison, only scored 26.

But if this was the Lakers’ best performance of the series, there were still telling signs that they were lucky to get a win.

They only shot 37 percent from the field and suffered seven more turnovers than their opponent. Coupled with their top six players all finishing in double figures (first time in the series), it seems unlikely that the Lakers will have everything in tune tonight. They have a steep climb to avoid a 3-1 deficit.

If Kobe can turn back the clock, though, then he will be able to mask the Lakers' efficiency issues on the offensive end. Oklahoma City will try to match up Thabo Sefolosha with Bryant, but then Thunder will most likely have to sit James Harden to avoid going too small against the Laker bigs.

Oklahoma City will be rendered into a jump-shooting team without Harden’s offense on the floor; the Lakers will take their chances...

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