Lakers point guard Steve Blake (5), who finished wiht 23 points, and guard… (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)
The White Mamba. The Blake Mamba.
Whatever nickname you could conjure for Steve Blake on Sunday night worked.
The Lakers guard scored 18 points in his first 18 minutes against the San Antonio Spurs, actually surpassing the nearly point-a-minute pace Kobe Bryant had produced two days before his torn left Achilles' tendon appeared to rupture his team's season.
"Man, it's almost you don't even think anymore," Blake said of a stretch in which he made seven of his first eight shots. "Everything's just happening and the ball comes your way and you just shoot it as quick as possible. It's a great feeling."
Blake couldn't sustain that kind of scoring frenzy, of course.
He didn't have to.
He made the kind of scrappy plays the Lakers needed in the final 78 seconds of a 91-86 victory at Staples Center, converting three of four free throws and grabbing a rebound.
He even imitated Bryant when the Spurs trapped Blake and forced him to call a timeout with 40 seconds left. Blake immediately yelled at teammates Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard for not coming over to help him.
Blake finished with a season-high 23 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals while playing lockdown defense on Tony Parker, the Lakers requiring every bit of production to keep intact their playoff hopes. All they need to make the postseason is to beat Houston on Wednesday or to have the Utah Jazz lose one of its last two games.
"It's the most aggressive I've seen him offensively," Lakers forward Antawn Jamison said of Blake.
His first half was full of Mamba moments.
Blake made a crisp inbounds pass from the baseline to Howard for a dunk, the play infuriating Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich so much that he immediately called a timeout to yell at Tiago Splitter for his inattentive defense.
Blake made a flurry of shots in the second quarter, including a three-pointer from the corner after the Lakers had misfired on their first seven attempts from beyond the arc.
He dribbled around Parker for a pull-up jumper and then had fans roaring when he made back-to-back three-pointers, the second of which gave the Lakers a 40-35 lead. At that point, Blake had made seven of eight shots and four of five three-pointers.
"Steve Blake was just going crazy and defensively was all over it," said Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni.
Blake helped hold Parker to four points on one-for-10 shooting, Popovich electing to sit his best player for the final 8:58 in favor of Gary Neal and Cory Joseph.
Said Blake: "I was surprised not to see him out there, I've got to say, but Popovich has his ways."
Said Popovich: "It wasn't because he was resting. He was playing awful."
Blake has largely been a disappointment since signing a four-year, $16-million contract in the summer of 2010. As far as memorable moments go, he made a big jumper in the first round of the playoffs against Denver last season and well, if you can't remember anything else besides his stepping on a parking lot spike strip you're not alone.
His scoring and assists have been below his career averages in each of his first three seasons with the Lakers, and he missed 37 games earlier this season because of abdominal and groin issues.
But Blake has been solid over the last month, scoring in double figures seven times.
He was never as good as he was in the first half against the Spurs. Blake was so crazy hot that at one point White Mamba was trending on Twitter.
"Anything referring to me and Mamba," Blake said, "I don't know if I could live up to that."