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Friday, December 23, 2005

Kobe 62, Dallas 61

Kobe 62, Dallas 61--that is what Lakers Coach Phil Jackson wrote on his clipboard after the third quarter of Tuesday night's L.A. Lakers-Dallas Mavericks game, underscoring the magnitude of what had just happened: Kobe Bryant had outscored one of the NBA's top teams by himself, in the process producing a 30 point third quarter, the fourth best quarter in NBA history. Kobe did not play in the fourth quarter as the Lakers coasted to a 112-90 victory, but in less than 33 minutes of playing time Bryant racked up several notable accomplishments: (1) he broke his previous single game scoring high of 56 points, set on January 14, 2002 against Memphis (he also did not play in the fourth quarter of that game); (2) he broke the Lakers record for points in a quarter (24), which he had shared with Jerry West and Elgin Baylor; (3) he broke Shaquille O'Neal's Staples Center record of 61 points; (4) he became only the fourth player since 1960 to score 60 points while playing less than 40 minutes (West, George Gervin and Karl Malone are the others).

J.A. Adande of the L.A. Times suggests that even though Kobe set a career high that it was not his best game because the stakes were not high enough. Adande's selection as Kobe's best game is his performance in game seven of the 2000 Western Conference Finals, when the Lakers came back from a 15 point fourth quarter deficit to defeat the Portland Trail Blazers and advance to the NBA Finals. The Lakers subsequently won their first title of the Shaq-Kobe era. Bryant told Adande, "Portland is the one. We don't step up that game, you don't know what could have happened. It's the most important." Those of you who think that Bryant rode Shaq's coattails to three titles might be interested in Kobe's stat line from that game: 25 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists, four blocked shots. Adande notes that Kobe led the Lakers in each of those categories in that crucial game. As great as Dwyane Wade has been, perhaps Shaq was a bit premature in saying that "Flash" is the best sidekick that he has had.

Against Dallas on Tuesday night, Bryant shot 18-31 from the field, 4-10 on three pointers and 22-25 on free throws. He added eight rebounds and three steals. His critics will no doubt mention that he had no assists. The title of T.J. Simers' L.A. Times article about Kobe's performance says it all: "Only Bryant Could Get Second-Guessed After 62." Simers writes, "Bryant can't win and it has nothing to do with the stiffs he's stuck with these days. If he shoots, he's selfish. If he's the facilitator--passing the ball to Chris Mihm or Devean George--what is he, nuts?" Simers concludes, "Apparently if the ball goes in a lot, Kobe is a stud; if it doesn't, he's the guy who will never understand the importance of teamwork. That's a fine line to walk, especially when the option many times is to pass the ball to players who can't score."

In the Lakers previous game, a frustrating 76-74 loss to the Houston Rockets, Jackson felt that Kobe neglected to attack the basket on a few occasions. After Tuesday's jaw dropping performance, Bryant said, "It was just a feeling of willfulness. Even if they were going to send two guys at me, I was going to attack them and let them know I was coming after them and just send a message." According to L.A. Times writer Mike Bresnahan, earlier in the day Kobe told Smush Parker and Lakers Assistant Coach Brian Shaw that he was going to drop 50 on Dallas.

What does Kobe have in store for Shaq, Wade and the Miami Heat on Christmas Day?

On December 19, Bryant was named the Western Conference Player of the Week after averaging 33.8 ppg, .517 field goal shooting, 5.8 rpg, 3.8 apg and 2.0 spg as the Lakers went 3-1; it's safe to say that Bryant will do his best to win that award back to back.

posted by David Friedman @ 2:00 AM

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