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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Kobe Bryant Tops 40 Points for the Third Straight Game

On Friday night, Kobe Bryant led the L.A. Lakers to a 97-92 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers by scoring 42 points on 15-31 field goal shooting. In the seven games since Bryant had his worst shooting game in nearly two years--and thus renewed the endless fascination many members of the media have with his shot selection--Bryant has averaged 37.2 ppg while shooting 98-196 (.500) from the field. The Lakers won six of those seven games and they have won five games in a row, with Bryant topping the 40 point barrier in each of the past three games. Bryant's 48 point game versus Phoenix on January 10 is not only the highest scoring game by any player in the young 2012 season but it is also the highest scoring output ever for a player who has participated in at least 16 NBA seasons.

Bryant has played at least 36 minutes in each of the past seven games and he played more than 40 minutes in three of those games. As I recently noted, Bryant's per minute productivity was very high in 2010-11 but Coach Phil Jackson limited Bryant's minutes to preserve Bryant's legs and try to keep Bryant healthy for the playoffs (a good plan that nevertheless went awry after Bryant sprained his ankle in the first round, an ailment that reduced him from an All-NBA First Team caliber performer to "merely" an All-Star level player as the Lakers were swept by the Dallas Mavericks in the second round). Bryant's wheels are spinning better than they have in years but Bryant's heavy minutes and sensational scoring totals underscore the fact that the Lakers simply are not a very good team; the Lakers need this kind of durability and productivity from Bryant just to beat the likes of Cleveland, Utah and Phoenix, none of which are currently seeded higher than seventh in their respective conferences.

Bryant has averaged 34.8 ppg so far in January 2012, with eight games completed and nine more left to go. This is not even close to being the highest scoring month of his career; Bryant averaged 43.4 ppg in January 2006 (including his 81 point outburst against Toronto), he averaged 41.6 ppg in April 2006 (that month consisted of just eight games at the end of the season; Bryant's other 40 ppg months each included at least 13 games and my understanding is that for these kinds of records the Elias Sports Bureau counts any month that includes at least five games), he averaged 40.6 ppg in February 2003 and he averaged 40.4 ppg in March 2007; Wilt Chamberlain is the only other player in NBA history to average more than 40 ppg in a month on multiple occasions (Chamberlain accomplished this astounding feat 11 times).

This is the seventh time that Bryant has had a streak of at least three games of 40-plus points but the first time he has done so since March 2007. His best such streak lasted nine games (February 2003, when Bryant single-handedly kept the Lakers afloat while Shaquille O'Neal slowly got back into shape after delaying his toe surgery) and four of his streaks took place in the infamous Kwame Brown-Smush Parker era when the Lakers needed Bryant to score 30-40 points just to have a chance to win.

The current version of the Lakers is not as talent-depleted as the Brown-Parker Lakers but the Lakers are who I thought they were when I declared that they would need for Kobe Bryant to play like he did back in 2006 and 2007 in order to make the playoffs--but perhaps I was wrong when I wrote, "the Kobe Bryant who worked miracles in 2006-07 and who carried a good team to great heights in 2008-10 will only be appearing at the Staples Center in highlights played on the video screen above the court." Is it really possible that a 33 year old, 16 year veteran with 48,000-plus regular season and playoff minutes on his legs (and a torn ligament in the wrist of his shooting hand) will lead the league in scoring and pile up enough 40 point games to carry the Lakers into the playoffs? The fact that Bryant can still play at such a high level is all the more reason for Mitch Kupchak to do whatever he can to acquire Dwight Howard; a Bryant-Howard tandem would be an improved version of the Hakeem Olajuwon-Clyde Drexler tandem that won a championship in 1995, even if the Lakers have to give up Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol: the Rockets won it all without a true power forward and the Lakers could do likewise with Bryant dominating the perimeter, Howard locking down the paint and Coach Mike Brown's defensive schemes covering up some of the weaknesses at other positions.


Kobe Bryant's 40 Point Game Streaks

9: February 2003 (7-2 record)
5: March 2007 (5-0 record)
5: December 2005-January 2006 (3-2 record)
4: March-April 2006 (2-2 record)
4: March 2006 (3-1 record)
3: January 2012 (3-0; streak is still active)
3: December 2004-January 2005 (2-1 record)

Total: 25-8 record

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posted by David Friedman @ 5:22 AM



At Saturday, January 14, 2012 11:00:00 AM, Anonymous JackF said...

while i like to see Kobe scores, I dont think it is good for the lakers in the long run. Kobe needs to get Gasol and Bynum(especially) more involved in the game. Drew's effort level dropped when the team stopped going to him for a long period of time. 30 shots a game from one player is not good for team Chemistry.

The Lakers also need Bynum to produce as an all-star level player so they can be in a stronger position to deal for Howard where they wont have to give up Gasol too. lets face it, The Lakers can offer the Magics the best possible young player for Howard.

At Saturday, January 14, 2012 1:11:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Interesting thing I saw on ESPN.com today from Mike Wilbon that I think you might enjoyed.

"The last couple of seasons, I've been keeping track of how the Lakers do when Kobe shoots fewer than 22 times and more than 22 times, and I must say there have been more Ws when it's fewer than 22 times. But as Kobe said the other night, "Are you keeping track of how many of those shots come when we're behind late and I've got to keep shooting? My job, for a long time around here, is to score, to shoot the damn basketball. I shoot. I'm this team's shooting guard and I'm going to shoot.""

At Saturday, January 14, 2012 3:07:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Jack F:

Last year, Jeff Van Gundy made a great observation about Bynum and Gasol: Van Gundy said that horses trot but winners run. The Lakers' bigs do not run down court consistently nor do they fight to establish early position in the post. In order to have an effective post game, a big man must establish position in the post early in the shot clock so that he has time to receive the ball and either make a move or else kick the ball back out if he is double teamed. What happens with the Lakers is that Bynum and Gasol do not consistently establish themselves in the post so Bryant takes it upon himself to score. The problem is that Bynum is not a polished post player yet, while Gasol seems to have lost interest in playing in the paint.

The Magic do not have much choice regarding Howard. Howard will leave for nothing after this season if the Magic don't trade him and the Magic's potential trading partners are fully aware of this.

At Saturday, January 14, 2012 3:08:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Wilbon likes to take advantage of being an ESPN TV personality to hang out with stars but does he really put in the effort to understand the game analytically? Wilbon is a talented writer but I don't respect him as a so-called basketball expert or analyst. The idea of evaluating a player's effectiveness based solely or primarily on how many shots he attempts is idiotic.

At Sunday, January 15, 2012 5:36:00 PM, Anonymous Charliegone said...

Hi David,

Kobe yesterday again had a another 40 point game, but in a losing effort. Even though Kobe started off shooting badly, he ended up making 50% of his shots and kept the Lakers in the game. It's too bad though that the bigs (Bynum and Gasol) did a terrible job rebounding. They got outrebounded by a bad rebounding team and for most of the night trotted down the court to establish position. I agree with you that if they really want the ball, they have to be more aggressive and establish post position early. Too many times I've seen this season they (Bynum/Gasol tandem) have been trying to post up late in the clock and then pass it out when they can't do anything to guess who? Kobe.
As a Laker fan, I really hope that Mitch can make a trade for Howard or at least provide the Lakers with another shot creator/PG. I'm not sure Kobe can keep this up at his age. It's amazing how the media focuses on Kobe on not on the other Lakers who have been lackluster this year. If you ask me as a Laker fan, I think Kobe has been doing as much as he can for his team to win games. I can't really say the same for Bynum or Gasol though.

At Monday, January 16, 2012 4:10:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

excellent analysis on kobe and pau's milk carton status when it comes to playing the post. bynum has no real west coast competition for the center position; his numbers should be better, and would certainly open things up for everyone else, including kobe.

At Tuesday, January 17, 2012 10:45:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ESPN people must be so relieved to have seen Kobe put up a clinker David!
Thank you for insightful approach.


At Tuesday, January 17, 2012 1:41:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Even in Kobe's "clinker" (or clunker) against Dallas he still managed to post a game-high seven assists, including the pass to Fisher for the game-winning three point shot.

At Tuesday, January 17, 2012 11:00:00 PM, Anonymous boyer said...

David, where do you get all of your stats? Basketball reference won't give game logs before 1986, and they don't include playoff game logs until the 90s. Is there a place to find game logs back further? It'd be nice to see these.

I was interested to see how Kobe compares to Lebron is FGA/game, and I was actually surprised to find out that Lebron averages 1 additional FGA/game for his career than Kobe does, but I have yet to ever find one article about Lebron shooting too much, not that he does necessarily, but I seriously have found at least one article everyday for at least the past 2 weeks of Kobe shooting too much. I'll never quite understand this.

It is only one game, but Kobe and the lakers seemed to make much more of an effort to give the ball to Pau and bynum. But, either they refuse to consistently be aggressive and don't shoot anymore than around 15FGAs/game or else bumble around figuring out today. Bynum did look better against double teams against dallas, but still not that good. Kobe struggled, as will happen from time to time. But, if the lakers are going to win any game, you're right, it sure seems like Kobe has to play awesome. And if he doesn't, the defense better be amazing. It was good against Dallas, but dallas was missing lots of good looks. Peace looks terrible. How quickly he has declined. Maybe it's the lockout and the condensed schedule some, though.

At Wednesday, January 18, 2012 5:34:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I obtain stats from a variety of sources, including media guides, NBA.com, Basketball Reference.com and the Elias Sports Bureau.

Some game log data can be found in various media guides or compiled at certain websites but the further back you are looking the harder it will be to find complete data.

The career FGA data for LeBron and Kobe is a bit skewed because LeBron has always been a starter while Kobe began his career as a reserve and then split shot attempts with Shaq for many years. However, you are correct about the larger issue: it is odd that so many people call James a "pass first" player despite the fact that he averages more than 20 FGA/game and has ranked in the top six in this category every year of his career, including four straight second place finishes.


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