BOSTON -- Kobe Bryant stopped his dribble, spun one way to look for a teammate, turned back the other, then just hoisted a tough shot that missed badly.
At that point, who would he have wanted to pass to?
That was early in the fourth quarter, when Bryant was the only Los Angeles Lakers player providing any offence. But his teammates finally started scoring when Bryant stopped, sending the Lakers to a 91-84 victory over the Boston Celtics in Game 3 of the NBA finals.
Lamar Odom, who was silent in two games off the bench in Los Angeles, made two baskets in the final quarter, both when the Celtics were within one possession. Derek Fisher had five of his six field goals in the period, and Pau Gasol had one.
"They weren't going to let me beat them down the stretch," Bryant said. "It was important for everybody to make plays, and our guys made plays. Lamar made a big play, Pau made big shots, Derek obviously made big shots, and that's what we have to do."
Bryant had only one field goal, but by then he was probably worn out from carrying the Lakers.
With no help in sight, he had four of their six field goals in their dreadful third quarter, with Gasol adding the other two. Amazingly, the Lakers didn't have a basket from anyone other than those players from late in the first half until Fisher's basket with under nine minutes left.
"You know, we did a lot through Kobe in the third quarter, which really got us in trouble," Fisher said. "In the first half we were much better with our execution, ball movement, and it makes it hard for their defence when we're moving the ball and we're moving players."
Fisher finished with 16 points, one of his best efforts of the post-season, and Odom made all five shots and scored 12.
"Just Derek being Derek," Bryant said. "He makes big plays all the time. He never ceases to amaze me."
Odom had only five points in 21 minutes of the opener while battling foul trouble, and Game 2 was even more frustrating. He picked up three quick fouls there and was on the court for only 14 1/2 minutes.
But he got off to a strong start, and was back on the court for the big finish.
"Well, he got going," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "He had a kiss shot that went in off the backboard. That was kind of a gift from God to him for all that stuff he's been through in the series."
Last time Bryant was in Boston during the finals, he was helpless as none of his teammates stepped up in the Celtics' blowout victory in the clinching Game 6 of the 2008 series.
This time, the Lakers were at their best when he wasn't scoring.
Bryant had only two free throws in a 10-1 run that closed the first quarter, and contributed only one field goal in an 11-3 spurt to start that second that extended the Lakers' lead to 37-20.
"Everybody on this team is prepared to play," Odom said. "Everybody works hard, practises hard together, everybody's prepared."
Bryant did most of the work over the next two periods, but the Celtics kept closing during that time.
Not to worry for Bryant. By then, help was finally on the way.