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Monday, March 26, 2007

Kobe's 50 Point Streak Ends, But the Lakers Winning Streak Continues

The Golden State Warriors stopped Kobe Bryant's streak of consecutive 50 point games at four but Bryant scored 43 points in a 115-113 L.A. Lakers win. Bryant had 12 fourth quarter points as the Lakers overcame a 10 point deficit with less than 10 minutes left in the game. He shot 15-33 from the field (4-11 on three pointers) and 9-11 from the free throw line, adding nine rebounds but also committing seven turnovers. Bryant did not have any assists but the team has won five in a row during his current scoring explosion so I don't think that Phil Jackson is real concerned about getting more shot attempts for the other Lakers at the moment. L.A. Times columnist T.J. Simers had the perfect take on that subject in this March 18 piece: Bryant is facilitating more shots for himself. Simers wrote, "So much for the great facilitator, the ball hog is back, and this is the way the Lakers should be entertaining everyone. At the very least, 'anything to keep the ball out of Smush Parker's hands' should be the motto of every Lakers fan these days." I wouldn't call Bryant a "ball hog" but Simers is right on target when he notes that the Lakers are better off when Bryant "facilitates" shots for himself than when he "facilitates" shots for guys who either can't shoot or don't want the responsibility to shoot. It is not coincidental that Bryant's scoring feats and the current Lakers winning streak come on the heels of two blowout losses to the Dallas Mavericks and Denver Nuggets. Having Kobe Bryant play passively and share the ball sounds great in theory but on the court it led to disaster because his teammates did not carry their own weight. Now Bryant is carrying such a heavy load and attracting so much defensive attention that it is easier for his supporting cast to make some contribution to the cause. He is making his team and his teammates better by not forcing them to shoulder a greater load than they can handle and by drawing double-teams that open up the court.

Bryant has scored 268 points in the Lakers' five game winning streak (53.6 ppg), shooting 91-173 from the field (.526), 21-44 on three pointers (.477) and 65-71 (.915) from the free throw line. Those percentages would rank 15th, second and second in the NBA respectively this season. Although Bryant's 50 point streak is over, he has scored at least 40 in five straight games. Topping the 40 point park with regularity is nothing new for him, of course. Bryant has 81 career 40 point games (the Lakers are 57-24 in those games, including 11-3 in 2006-07). He just passed Oscar Robertson (77) and trails only Wilt Chamberlain (271), Michael Jordan (173) and Elgin Baylor (88) on the all-time list. Last year Bryant set a Lakers franchise record by scoring at least 40 points in 27 games. He also had 19 such games in 2002-03 (fourth on the Lakers list) and now has 14 this year (sixth on the Lakers list). Bryant had nine straight 40 point games in 2002-03 (the Lakers went 7-2), which tied Jordan for the fourth longest such streak in NBA history; Chamberlain had two 14 game streaks and one 10 game run. Bryant averaged 43.4 ppg in January 2006 and 40.6 ppg in February 2003. He is the only player other than Chamberlain to twice average at least 40 ppg for an entire calendar month; Chamberlain did it 11 times. Baylor did it once and no one else has done it at all in the history of the NBA. Bryant is averaging 40.8 ppg in March 2007, with two games remaining: home contests versus Memphis and Houston. He just scored 60 against Memphis and had 23, 53 and 20 in his three previous games against Houston this season.

After Sunday's game, Warriors Coach Don Nelson said, "We held him to 43, by God. We did a good job. I think our defense was solid. We tried to make it hard for Kobe. What a great performance--I can't imagine what he's been doing."

***

Recent Quotes About Kobe Bryant:

"He's an indomitable warrior, that's who he is. He really has an incredible arsenal. He's one of a kind--he can play point guard or number 2 guard or small forward. It doesn't matter. He's going to score." Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, six-time NBA MVP, NBA career scoring leader and currently a Lakers assistant coach.

"He and I would sit down and talk about the '80s teams, the championship teams we had. [Bryant] wanted to know how good we were, what did it take for us to win, why were we so successful. All the questions that are normally asked by guys that are 20-something, not 18. I would expect an 18-year-old to ask where do we party, how are the girls in L.A. He didn't care about that. He just wasn't a regular 18-year-old kid. I knew that. He was very mature, already had in his mind pretty much what he wanted to accomplish. I remember we did an interview together in his rookie year. I called Kobe over and told the guys doing the show, 'You see this kid? He's going to be the best player in the league.' Three or four years later, I thought he was. To this day I still do...He has the competitive edge just like Magic [Johnson]. Whatever it was going to take to win, he was going to get it done." Byron Scott, member of three Lakers championship teams, teammate of Bryant's during Bryant's rookie season and currently Coach of the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets.

"Let's be honest. Bryant isn't judged the same as other players. If personality didn't color judgment, if effort and understanding of the game could be quantified in a boxscore, there would not be any confusion over who the game's best player is. That wasn't his fault until he proved over the last 10 days that he could overcome all that, could force the most anti-Kobe soul to concede that there's no one who can do what he can." Ric Bucher, writing in Daily Dime at ESPN.com right after Bryant's 43 point game. Bucher indicated how high Bryant has set the bar: a game that would be a career night for many players was anticlimactic coming from Bryant: "If there's such a thing as a dissatisfying 43-point performance, Kobe Bryant delivered it Sunday night against the Golden State Warriors. Yeah, he still hit an array of momentum-swinging shots, and yeah, the Los Angeles Lakers still won, 115-113, and, yeah, it was a performance that by almost any other player would be considered pretty damn good." He made an excellent point about Bryant's supporting cast when he added, "I noticed the weird listlessness of Lamar Odom on D and the careless ballhandling of Smush Parker and the general ambivalence of Kwame Brown that makes it astounding that the Lakers are six games over .500."

posted by David Friedman @ 2:46 AM

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