Gilbert Arenas Scores a "Quiet" 60The fracas at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night and its aftermath overshadowed a tremendous individual performance--Gilbert Arenas scored 60 points on Sunday night in a 147-141 Wizards victory over the L.A. Lakers. The NBA's 60 point club is an exclusive group of 20 players who have accomplished the feat 57 times: Wilt Chamberlain (32 times), Michael Jordan (4), Elgin Baylor (3), Kobe Bryant (2), Allen Iverson (1), David Thompson (1), David Robinson (1), Pete Maravich (1), Rick Barry (1), Jerry West (1), Joe Fulks (1), George Gervin (1), Tracy McGrady (1), George Mikan (1), Karl Malone (1), Shaquille O'Neal (1), Larry Bird (1), Bernard King (1), Tom Chambers (1), Gilbert Arenas (1). For those of you scoring at home, Wilt Chamberlain scored 60-plus points 32 times--and the rest of the players in the history of the league did it 25 times.
Arenas broke Earl Monroe's franchise record for points in a game (56) and is only the second player to score at least 60 points versus the Lakers. Arenas shot 17-32 from the field (including 5-12 from three point range) and 21-27 from the free throw line. Arenas also had eight rebounds and eight assists. Arenas, whose previous career-high was 47, was not surprised by his performance: "It was bound to happen. I'm a scorer, so I was going to have one of those days where I was clicking. Most of the time when I've scored 46 in three quarters, we were blowing the other team out, so I didn't get to play in the fourth. But tonight was that time. It was a close game and I stayed in. I found the rhythm, especially in the fourth quarter and in overtime, and I never looked back."
Kobe Bryant guarded Arenas throughout the game. Lakers Coach Phil Jackson considered trying other options but decided that Bryant, a six-time member of the All-Defensive Team, had a better chance than anyone else of corralling Arenas: "Yes, we thought we'd take him off, but he wanted him and he thought that it was the best matchup out there, so I let him have his way. We thought that nobody else had really stepped in and found a way to defend him at all." Bryant, coming off of a 53 point performance in Friday's double overtime win against Houston, scored 45 points, shooting 15-24 from the field (including 7-11 from three point range) and 8-10 from the free throw line. Bryant had 10 assists and eight rebounds. The Lakers overcame a 17 point deficit to force the game into overtime, but the Wizards outscored the Lakers 21-15 in the extra session, with Arenas scoring 16 points and Bryant scoring four points. Arenas broke Earl Boykins' record for points in an overtime period (15), although that is not mentioned in the ESPN or NBA.com game recaps (the Washington Post correctly pointed this out in its coverage of the game).
Bryant and Arenas did not say much to each other during the game according to Arenas: "I'm not a trash talker. He doesn't really talk trash. He just goes out there and plays. A guy who comes off an injury and to be doing what he does, it's unbelievable." Arenas is referring to Bryant's offseason knee surgery and his recently sprained ankle.
While Bryant did not have much to say during the game, he did offer some comments afterward: "You tip your hat and say, 'See you next time.' First of all, he shot 27 free throws. We as a team shot 30. Think about that. But him individually, it's funny. He doesn't seem to have much of a conscience. I really don't think he does. Some of the shots he took tonight, you miss those, and they're just terrible shots. Awful. You make them and they're unbelievable shots. I don't get a chance to play him much, so I haven't gotten used to that mentality of just chucking it up there. He made some big ones, but I'll be ready next time."
Are Bryant's comments just sour grapes? I did not see the game, so I don't know why Arenas shot almost as many free throws as the entire Lakers team. Perhaps he drove to the hoop more aggressively. As for Arenas' shot selection, again, I did not see the game. However, Arenas is shooting .428 from the field this season; only Allen Iverson has a worse field goal percentage among the NBA's top 25 scorers. Bryant is shooting .487 from the field this season, which would be a career-high if he maintains that pace. Bryant has a career shooting percentage of .452, while Arenas' career shooting percentage is .431. Based on that evidence, it does not seem out of line to suggest that Arenas' shot selection is questionable at times. Ideally, it might be better to simply congratulate Arenas and move on to the next game, but right after losing such a close game it is understandable that Bryant was somewhat frustrated. I'd like to actually see some of the shots--and fouls--in question.
When Bryant concludes by saying "I'll be ready next time" I immediately think back to LaBradford Smith. He played for the Wizards back when they were known as the Bullets and he had a big game against Michael Jordan, scoring more than 30 points. Supposedly he had some words to say to Jordan after that performance, although later it turned out that Jordan may have invented that part of the story as further motivation. In any case, the next time Jordan played against Smith, Jordan had 30-plus points--in the first half. The Wizards and Lakers only play twice a year. Their next matchup is on February 3 in Washington. If you a betting person, don't bet on Arenas scoring more than Bryant in that contest.
posted by David Friedman @ 3:38 PM