Among Kobe Bryant's myriad of inimitable talents is what's known to opposing coaches simply as the "rise-up."
That's when Bryant has a defender blanketing him on the perimeter, obstructing his vision and physically preventing him from driving - yet Kobe simply leaps high enough and leans far enough forward or backward to release a perfect jumper anyway.
Bryant rose up against Grant Hill in the final minute of the Lakers' conference-clinching victory against Phoenix on Saturday night, putting his stamp on a 37-point performance that sent the Lakers into the NBA Finals with a chance for revenge on Boston.
Even with Hill right in his grill, Bryant leaped up and away from the veteran forward and drilled a clinching 23-footer. The basket essentially clinched the Lakers' victory, and Bryant punctuated it with a pat on Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry's derriere.
"I said, 'Good defense,' to Grant," Gentry recalled with a rueful smile. "(Bryant) said, 'Not quite good enough.' ... I thought Grant was going to block the shot. That was a fallaway 3-pointer with a hand in your face, off balance. You know, that's who he is. That really is who he is."
Bryant is enjoying arguably the most impressive playoff run of his career, and not because his numbers are any larger than in a previous postseason. He has scored 30 points in 10 of the Lakers' last 11 games - and moreover, he has willed a team with an injured center, two more inconsistent starters and little bench help beyond Lamar Odom into its third straight NBA Finals, starting Thursday night at Staples Center.
Bryant averaged 33.7 points, 7.2 rebounds and 8.3 assists in the series while making 52.1 percent of his shots, repeatedly burning Phoenix for late-game baskets.