How Bullets star channelled his inner Kobe
Brisbane star import Lamar Patterson embraced Kobe Bryant's "Mamba Mentality" to spearhead the Bullets to a critical 87-83 victory over Melbourne United at "The Armoury" on Saturday.
On a night when the late Lakers legend was honoured either side of tip-off, Patterson wore a pair of Bryant's signature Nike shoes and hotfooted his way to 31 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and two steals to guide the Bullets to their 14th win of the season.
The near-capacity crowd of 4847 belted out chants of "MVP!" as Patterson scored 19 of his points in the second half when Brisbane overcame a 13-point deficit to move a step closer to the NBL playoffs.
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Patterson is a Lakers fan who named his pet French bulldog 'Kobe'.
Before Saturday night's heroics, he was the NBL's leading scorer for the past four weeks with 24.2 points per game and he underlined his MVP and All-NBL First Team credentials with another match-winning performance.
He said Bryant's death - along with eight others - in a helicopter crash in LA last Monday had a major effect on him and the Bullets players and coaches during the build-up to the crunch match against United.
"It was a tragedy losing an icon, a superhero pretty much in my eyes,'' Patterson said.
"It just puts a lot of stuff in perspective and makes sure you don't take anything for granted because nothing is really guaranteed.
"Seeing that just opened my eyes. Seeing someone I thought was invincible being taken out by something he did every day pretty much.
"The love that has been poured into him and his family throughout the world has just been amazing and just shows the type of person he was.
"It hurts everyone. Especially the basketball world. The best way (to honour Bryant) is keep playing hard and doing stuff that Kobe would do, like go crazy in the gym.''
Patterson said the strong belief in the Bullets camp meant they did not panic when United jumped out to a double-digit lead early in the third term.
"It goes to our maturity. The confidence in these guys … I felt like we were ready to make a run at any moment,'' he said.
"We are not going to get too rattled. We know what's at stake. We know how tight it is on the ladder.
"We know that they needed a win but we felt we needed it more.''
Brisbane tightened their grip on fourth place on the NBL ladder after taking their win-loss record to 14-11 and will host New Zealand at "The Armoury" on Friday night before heading west to take on Perth on Sunday.
They will finish the regular season with a home "Sunshine Stoush" against the finals-bound Cairns Taipans on February 15.
Two wins from those three matches will lock in a finals berth but one victory could be enough to make the playoffs.