Kobe Bryant Makes History With his Fourth Straight 50 Point GameElgin and MJ couldn't quite do it, so now it's just Wilt and Kobe, mano-a-mano. Kobe Bryant scored 50-plus points for the fourth straight game, setting a New Orleans Arena opponents record with 50 points in a 111-105 L.A. Lakers win over the New Orleans-Oklahoma City Hornets. Bryant joined Wilt Chamberlain as the only players in NBA history to score 50 or more points in four consecutive games; his 18th regular season 50 point game broke Elgin Baylor's Lakers franchise record and gave Bryant sole possession of third place all-time in that category. Bryant shot 16-29 from the field, including 2-5 from three point range, and 16-16 from the free throw line. He now has 225 points in his last four games (56.3 ppg), all wins for the previously struggling Lakers, and Bryant has shot 76-140 from the field (.543), 17-33 on three pointers (.515) and 56-60 from the free throw line (.933) during these contests.
It is hard to find anything bad to say about what Bryant is doing--he is shooting extraordinary percentages from all distances, his team is winning and his coach gave his seal of approval to Bryant being this aggressive. Nevertheless, Bryant haters will surely mention two things: New Orleans has a losing record and Bryant had only one assist. If you check the standings, you will notice that New Orleans is still in the hunt for the last playoff spot, so this home game was very important to the Hornets, whose record is not that much worse than the Lakers. If the Lakers did not have Bryant they would in fact be a much worse team than the Hornets, who got great performances from point guard Chris Paul (28 points, 12 assists, six rebounds, four steals) and center Tyson Chandler (22 points, 22 rebounds, two blocked shots). As for Bryant only having one assist, anyone who watched the game understands that Bryant did three things, depending on the defensive coverage he saw: when single-covered, he attacked aggressively, usually scoring or drawing a foul; when double-covered in the post, he hit the open man, who generally fired a brick or passed to someone else who was open and fired a brick; when double-covered on the wing or at the top of the key, Bryant split the trap, broke down the defense and either attacked the rim or shot his patented fadeaway jumper. Anyone who thinks that Bryant is not passing enough or that the Lakers are better off with Bryant shooting less and other guys shooting more is simply not paying attention. If Bryant had some better teammates--say, Raja Bell and Shawn Marion, or Jerry Stackhouse and Devin Harris--he would be getting a ton of assists--or he would be scoring 75 points if teams stayed at home on those guys and guarded him one on one.
Can the Lakers win a title this way? Of course not; they do not have nearly enough talent. They are a flawed team that must hope that young players Andrew Bynum and Jordan Farmar develop and that one or two more good players are acquired via the draft, trades or free agency.
Bryant's third quarter was particularly special. He already had 27 points (9-17 field goal shooting, 9-9 free throw shooting) by halftime but the Lakers trailed 57-56. Here is what Bryant did with the ball in the third quarter:
*** Sank two free throws, making the score 59-58 Lakers (29 points for Bryant)
*** Grabbed an offensive rebound in traffic, used an escape dribble and nailed a shot bank shot: 60-59 Lakers (31 points)
*** Caught the ball at the right elbow, took two dribbles, spun and nailed a turnaround jump shot: 62-61 Lakers (33 points)
*** Made a technical free throw: 63-61 Lakers (34 points)
*** Hit a three point shot over a double team after a screen and roll: 66-61 Lakers (37 points)
*** Drove from the left wing, made a running one handed shot in the lane: 78-65 Lakers (39 points)
*** Made a three pointer from the left baseline: 81-65 Lakers (42 points)
*** Took two dribbles, pump faked and hit a pullup jump shot: 87-69 Lakers (44 points, a new arena record for opponents)
*** Missed a pullup jumper
Of course, the printed word hardly does justice to the poetry in motion of Bryant's moves but if you read that litany carefully you noticed a couple things: Bryant's amazing shooting percentage and the fact that he scored without monopolizing the ball or dribbling incessantly--Bryant caught the ball, read the defense and made a strong, fundamental move. That 12 minutes of basketball would make for a good instructional video.
Around this time, the New Orleans-Oklahoma City announcers made the point that Bryant had taken the crowd completely out of the game and seemed to have deflated the Hornets' players as well. Bryant took his first rest of the entire game with 1:22 remaining in the quarter, having shot 6-7 from the field and 3-3 from the free throw line in the third quarter, scoring 17 points (more than the entire Hornets team) and giving the Lakers an 87-71 lead. He returned to the court with 13.7 seconds left when the Lakers had the ball for the last possession of the period but did not attempt the final shot of the quarter; the Hornets had cut the lead to 87-75 in the minute that he was out.
Bryant got off to a slow start in the fourth quarter; the Hornets double-teamed him and he accepted the trap, passing to open teammates who simply could not produce. Bryant did not score until the 6:36 mark and with Bryant passing the ball the Lakers had managed just five points in almost half a quarter and their lead had dropped to 92-86. Then Bryant captured a deflected ball and drove hard to the hoop, drawing a foul. He made the two free throws, putting the Lakers ahead 94-86. He drew another foul a minute later and again made both free throws. The historic 50th point came on a one dribble, pullup jumper from the top of the key.
posted by David Friedman @ 3:05 AM