Cold-blooded. Clutch. Closer. These are the three C’s that make up Kobe Bryant, but in the grand scheme that is the NBA Playoffs, Bryant rarely goes after the kill alone. Always lurking behind the deadly Mamba is one bulldog named Derek Fisher.

Phil Jackson noted that the Utah Jazz took away the Lakers’ post-game. Andrew Bynum’s only field goal attempt was blocked by Krylo Fresenko, and Pau Gasol did not score the bulk of his 14 points until the second half.

Tonight, the Lakers’ guards reminded the Jazz that they were more than just their big men. Tonight, the Lakers’ backcourt took care of their frontcourt, scoring 69 of the team’s 111 points.

The game began just as the Jazz could hope for, with the visiting team starting 1-7 and the Lakers offense reduced to a Kobe-centric style of play. The Lakers did not dominate from inside as they had in the first two games, settling for jumper after jumper while the Jazz scored from wherever they pleased; from downtown, from mid-range, from penetration, and because they attacked the paint, from the free throw line. At the end of the first quarter, however, the field goal percentage of both teams were nothing short of paltry. The Lakers were shooting a lowly 29%, which the Jazz were not better with 33%.

Before the first half came to a close, the Lakers had gotten to within four points after having been down by 13. Kobe’s 20 first half points sure helped, and Derek Fisher did a good job getting Deron Williams into foul trouble. Jazz’s point man had collected three with just over a minute left in the second quarter.

The Lakers played from behind at the onset, but by chipping away at the Jazz double-digit lead before halftime, they took advantage in the third quarter, laying the groundwork for what was a very competitive final 24 minutes. This game was destined to wind down to the very last second, with the Lakers and Jazz trading basket after basket, reaching tie after tie, and lead change after lead change. Leading each team with their offensive onslaught were the least likely players in Kyle Korver, Ron Artest and Derek Fisher.

Kyle Korver, having yet to contribute to the series for the Jazz, began 8-8 from the field and finished with 20 points from 9-10 shooting, five of which were three-pointers.

Ron Artest, whose shooting touch, unfortunately in these playoffs, has not mirrored his defensive success, was left open by the Jazz and thankfully, Artest made them pay, hitting 4-7 from downtown.

Downtown was a popular place at Energy Solutions Arena this evening. With the Lakers down 96-100, and 2:48 minutes left in regulation, the three-ball was working for the road team. According to Bryant, the reason behind their success was the quality of the three-point shots they attempted. Rather than what Bryant called, “settling” shots, the Lakers took shots in rhythm or with feet firmly planted for the attempt.

Lamar Odom converted from downtown to make it 101-100. After the Lakers and Jazz traded 2-point baskets, Korver struck with another three, which was followed by another three from Bryant. After Deron Williams scored, Fisher followed his shot with a three of his own to make it 109-108, Lakers. Three shots from downtown in a span of about 90 seconds.

With the Lakers leading 111-108 after Bryant hits two free throws, Williams was fouled by Fisher and made two free throws of his own. On an inbounds pass that was deflected by rookie Wesley Matthews (who took down Fisher on a no-call), the Jazz obtained possession and had 6.8 seconds to score a 2-point basket to take Game 3. With Artest in Williams’ way, the guard hoisted a shot from behind the arc and missed. Matthews attempted to tip in the miss but it reached only as far as the edge of the rim and just like that, Utah is down 0-3.

This evening’s Lakers were not led by their signature of length and power inside. Tonight they were heaved at the forefront by a signature of veterans who don’t cower in close games.

Derek Fisher, surrounded by reporters outside the locker room, summed it the best, “For me, it’s always about exhausting everything that I have to do what’s best for the team. In those situations at the end of a game, when you’re down 2 or you’re down 3, or the game is tied, to step in and make a big shot like that, although I may get the credit, it’s what got the team over the hump to win the games. That’s what I live for.”

A pair of captains who know how to steer their ship and their entire crew to safety no matter how rough and dangerous the waters — who better to lead this Laker team to another championship?

Pre-Game Thoughts: Hoping the Lakers watched the other game 3’s that were played before them. All were won by the road team.

Half-Time Thoughts: 50-54. It’s been a very Kobe-centric offense for the Lakers, which is okay since he’s shooting 9-14.

Most Thoughtless Player(s) of the Game: Andrew Bynum seems like the most obvious choice for this category tonight based on his rather empty box score. To be fair, he didn’t receive as many touches, but he has to make his presence known in other ways, like in defense. Just four rebounds and one block. No hate here though, as long as other teammates covered.

Most Thought-Filled Player(s) of the Game: Captains, our captains! Kobe and D-Fish combined for 55 points! Who’s old and on their way down now, huh?!

  • tradesasha

    3 down, 1 to go!! Let’s get it lakers!!

    • Marwan Marzina

      I think you mean 7 down, 9 to go.

      • 242LakerFan

        That’s right. Chip or nuttn’!

  • LakerMarc

    This was a close one in every way. I was surprised the Lakers didnt seem to look at taking it inside into the paint at all practically. I think that made this more of a game. Hoping to see more of that in Game 4. Utah surely has lost a great deal of will and that’ll probably show on Monday. Go Lakers. Finish them off, I mean they would have to win every game at this point now, NOT GONNA HAPPEN.

  • LakerMarc

    Ron you were my hero tonight!!!! Awesome night for Fish, too.

  • mr.laker19

    I love being a Lakers fan!!! Lets close this out on Monday and rest and prepare for a long series with the Suns

    • Bismark24

      There isn’t any time for rest…..Mission is not complete!

  • Sasha4Lvp

    see artest! phil knows what he’s doing!

    • http://lakersnation.com KOBE THA MVP 10′

      PJ is a classic genius. first 20 point game fore artest in the playoffs

      • Marwan Marzina

        Its mind games. All mind games from the Zen Master =)

      • yash

        Nah its all DJ Mbenga’s Dacos that helped him out

  • Sasha4Lvp

    oh and I would personally like to give a big thanks to the OKC Thunder for waking up this team. Thank you!

    • http://thelakersnation.com/blog/category/original-articles/benchmob-beat/ Anna Gonda

      Ditto!

  • livetowin16th

    Now THAT was a playoff game! My heart sunk when matthews almost made that tip. All good though, we got the victory.

    Now move on to Game 4. Lets finish this series, and rest for phoenix.

    • Bismark24

      Rest?…Mission is not complete….THEN, we rest.

    • http://thelakersnation.com/blog/category/original-articles/benchmob-beat/ Anna Gonda

      They can rest in June =)

  • TeamMorrison

    For anyone that has ever doubted D-Fish, tonight illustrated why he is still the Lakers starting point guard.

    • http://thelakersnation.com/blog/category/original-articles/benchmob-beat/ Anna Gonda

      Seriously! The man is money in the post-season.

    • 242LakerFan

      I’ve had Fish’s back, along with a few others, all this season on these boards. We faithful few never doubted in the face of a swell of anti-Fish sentiment all year. I feel like we have been vindicated by his play throughout these last nine games and especially last night. This is a man who lives for the playoff pressure and the big moment.
      He has said that he will play next year, if not for the Lakers then somewhere else. Whatever happens, though, he has now and forever, placed his among the great names in Laker history.
      I saw Magic, Kareem, Worthy, Coop and everyone since then play in LA, and he deserves his spot with all of those guys.
      Thanks, Fish. We love you, man!

      • Dameon

        I personally believe whenever Fish retires, somewhere down the line the Lakers need to retire his jersey up in Staples, all the Lakers championships in this past decade could not be possible without his solid play, and clutch performance

    • KindSir

      He can still hit clutch shots coming off the bench…

    • Toni

      About time! – I have always liked Derek Fisher and I still believe that he is an asset to this Lakers team!

      Age is but a number but when puseh comes to shove (especially with Jazz fans booing him all the time), he still manages to put in “dagger” shots when they are needed!

      The Lakers would be foolish to let him go when the season is over. He has contributed way too much to this team, especially when it’s crunch time, for them to let him just walk away when his contract ends!

      That said, go Fish!!! – Close this game out tonight and send the Jazz fans on an early fishing trip!!!!

      GO LAKERS!!!!!

  • Robert

    Wow! What a game. The Lakers played sloppy in the first half, stayed within 4 points by 1/2, stayed in game, and the back and forth volley was nerve racking. The Jazz got more shots (yes, the refs ‘give it’ to the home team), the game was close on the road, and the Lakers STILL won!
    .
    The Jazz plan was to shut down the post, and they appeared to play that way. That was Sloane’s strategy. But ‘Phil’s’ strategy won. Not sure what that strategy was – Phil is a genius.
    .
    It is more clear to me, as the playoffs move on, that the playoff games are ‘coaches’ games. So the ‘veteran’ aspect of this team is showing up, and I’m quite impressed. I believe in their chances of making it all the way now.
    .
    Also – Kobe is ramping up. Look out!

  • Robert

    Actually, the strategy was to rely on outside shooting. “Luckily”, many of the Lakers were able to hit the 3s. Since 3 pt. shooting is streaky, I wouldn’t rely on this for the next game, necessarily.

    • Marwan Marzina

      Not really. The reason the Lakers had so many 3s is because they had good looks. Cause the Jaz took away the post game for the Lakers , so the Lakers had to rely on 3s and that meant the Jazz had to run out to the 3 point shooters and if you don’t have a 3 then you pass it to the post like so many times ended up in the hands of Pau for a mid range jumpshot.

      • Robert

        point is, they ‘made’ the threes. Jazz took away post. Anyway, you know the saying, “live by the 3, die by the 3″. Considering our ‘average’ 3 point shooting during the year, we were pretty lucky this time.
        .
        I don’t think it’s sustainable (but, I’m sure Sloane will try something else).

  • seankobe

    I think they gonna lose game 4 in a purpose, but it depend if they want a rest before the WCF!

    • Bismark24

      You think?!!….You’re crazy!!….They’re not going to lose Game 4 “in a purpose” or on purpose….Mission not complete….Plenty of time to rest after.

    • http://thelakersnation.com/blog/category/original-articles/benchmob-beat/ Anna Gonda

      The Lakers aren’t into throwing games. If they know what’s good for them, they’ll close this out on Monday. They’re totally capable of getting it done. Hopefully the Spurs can give Phoenix even a LITTLE BIT of a fight and extend their series so the Lakers can get some rest.

    • 242LakerFan

      Nobody loses intentionally in the Playoffs. You’d have to be a complete idiot to even entertain the idea. It’s win or go home and anything can happen. You don’t tempt fate that way. And who says they get any rest before the next round anyway? Phoenix is up 3-0 just like us.

      • seankobe

        some of you here are blinds! LA is hollywood buss is all business you know what happen to houston last year? Game 5 will be in LA and that means more money for jerry knowing jazz has no chance. I hope they will finish it tomorrow…I am not a hater, I’m a kobe fan! 242 your the idiot you don’t know whats happening in LA land…

  • Bismark24

    Anna….well written….love the article. Keep ‘em coming!! GO LAKERS!!

  • alive86

    I laugh at “Laker Fans”. For the past 3 years I’ve heard nothing but trash talk on D.Fish. Everyone’s been dogging him saying he’s old and needs to be traded, but when he comes up big these hypocrites begin to praise.

    So many fake fans, it’s embarrassing. I’m sure us REAL FANS understand how to appreciate every single person on the roster for what they contribute to the continuing success of this team.

    • 242LakerFan

      What he said.

    • TeamMorrison

      Adam Morrison really gives everyone a boost of confidence. He is always the first guy to high five all the players as they return to the bench. Thank you for recognizing his importance

  • uwee

    let’s jazz them out…….go lake show

  • JazzyJeff

    What can I say? The Lakers are just too good, BUT they will fall to Phoenix in the next round!

    • 242LakerFan

      A drowning man clutching at straws is so pathetic. Just go curl up in the corner and lick your wounded pride. Don’t make it worse with more silly predictions.

  • atomicpunk

    Fish was great tonight on offense and defense especially on arguably the best PG in the league.I know we shouldnt think ahead but I cant wait for a Lakers-Suns match-up. Will D.Fish be the primary defender on Nash? Nash is scary right now

    • Robert

      Fish comes up short on guarding ‘speedy’ guards, but Nash isn’t speedy, he’s just a great point guard with a high basketball IQ. Knows how to pass, set up, etc. Fish will be tough on him, that’s all that’s needed.

  • 007

    i love to find the bad things when something goes right. we know that kobe thanked pau for playing the full 48 minutes, all the way until the buzzer sounded in game 6 of the okc series. well kobe should have done the same and BLOCKED OUT WES MATTHEWS. he did not and almost cost us the game. blah blah blah you will all say that kobe did everything tonight. and he did. BUT he needs to play until the final buzzer or it almost went all for naught!

    • trippleocho

      Kobe didn’t box out but let’s just take the win please!

    • Robert

      Kobe plays ‘roaming’ defense, which generally isn’t good unless you’re good, and Kobe is good. However, it does create potential holes, which need to be closed up by teammates.

      • KindSir

        Man I hate the roaming defense. Always leaves someone wide open.

  • tradesasha

    suns will get their revenge over the spurs this year..so in the wcf, will the lakers get their revenge over the suns too?!?! U BETTA BELIEVE IT, WE’RE GONNA CRUSH THOSE FOOLS!! LETS GO LAKERS!!

  • Robert

    Not sure who the Lakers will be playing in the Finals. I think they’ll have a better chance against Orlando, because if the Cavs get there instead, then they’ll have the refs on the side of LeCheater (just like the refs favored the Celdicks in 2008).
    .
    The NBA and the media have hyped LeBrick so much. I really hope the Cavs don’t make it, just for this reason alone. They’re ‘crowning’ of LeJerk is at the expense of Kobe, who the media don’t like and want to bury as soon as possible.
    .
    They don’t understand that Kobe is beginning to ramp up, and will get better through the playoffs.

  • Laker4 Life

    Lakers are gone sweep the Jazz and then spank the Phoenix Suns in five games and nash is gone put his head down on the floor and cry like a baby, lol. Especially, if Kobe continues to play like he does against the Jazz, the suns are in trouble.
    Go Mighty Lakers!