Bryant Posts Second Consecutive 40 Point, 10 Assist Stat LineJust in case anyone thought that it was a fluke when Kobe Bryant posted a 40 point, 10 assist stat line, on Friday night Bryant accomplished the feat for the second consecutive game; his L.A. Lakers needed every one of his 41 points and 12 assists to sneak by the Toronto Raptors 118-116 in overtime. Bryant is the first Laker since Jerry West in 1970 to have back to back 40 point, 10 assist games. Larry Bird is still the oldest player (35) to have a 40 point, 10 assist game but Bryant is now the oldest player (34) to do it twice. Since the 1985-86 season, Allen Iverson has the most 40 point, 10 assist games (12), followed by LeBron James (eight), Michael Jordan (seven), Larry Bird (six), Kobe Bryant (five), Dwyane Wade (five) and Michael Adams (five).
Bryant is having an MVP-caliber season but Kobe Bryant is to the NBA regular season MVP award what Mario Andretti was to the Indy 500; Andretti could have and should have won several Indy 500s but he only won the 1969 edition--and he accomplished that in his backup car, while he later failed to win the 1987 Indy 500 after dominating the track for the entire month during qualifying and lapping the entire field on race day before an inexpensive part broke with just 20 laps to go. Similarly, Bryant was the best all-around player in the NBA for the better part of the first decade of this century but he won just one MVP award in what was probably the third or fourth best season of his career (2007-08).
If Bryant continues to play at this incredible level, if Dwight Howard controls the paint defensively, if Steve Nash continues to hit the open shots he is getting as a result of Bryant drawing double teams and if the Lakers' role players collectively make any kind of solid contribution (even if this comes from different players on different nights) then the Lakers could be the rare "team nobody wants to face in the playoffs" that actually lives up to that designation. If Pau Gasol returns to health in time to participate in the postseason and if he reverses the way that his game has declined for the past several years then the Lakers could be very dangerous.
Right now, though, the reality is that the Lakers have had an injury ravaged, chemistry deficient season and they are fighting tooth and nail just to qualify for the playoffs.
LeBron James' individual numbers are off the charts and his defending champion Miami Heat are currently riding a 17 game winning streak; he deserves to win the MVP (and he should have won the 2011 MVP as well). James grabbed the best all-around player title from Bryant during the 2008-09 season and has held it ever since; Bryant is not likely to retake that crown unless James gets hurt but it will be interesting to see how productive James is in six years when he is 34. Bryant's superior conditioning and his ability to adjust his game have enabled him to remain dominant even as his athletic ability and stamina have waned.
posted by David Friedman @ 6:33 AM