Coming into the Utah game Kobe needed 34 points to pass Hakeem “the Dream” Olajuwon for number 8 on the NBA all time scoring list. Fortunately he only played 26 minutes, scoring 21 in the 120-91-blowout victory. The lack of minutes played was great, heavy defensive pressure early led to the onslaught, giving Kobe plenty of time to ice down and relax.
The Lakers are in the second of four straight at Staples hosting the Sacramento Kings (11-33), a team they have beat twice already this season, and 8 straight. The Kings have lost 5 of their last 6, all competitive loosing by single digits, two of those coming in overtime.
Using hard jab fakes with out committing a dribble is something Bryant does well, and uses frequently. It’s a very illusive move that creates space and tests the defender. His shoulders go one way and he goes the other. It is all set up by great footwork; Bryant takes pride in his off-season workouts/ drills that keep him quick. He’s done it for years, abuse defenders because they don’t work as hard.
Tonight’s victim was Omri Caspi, who seemed a step behind Bryant. He came out on fire, scoring 21 in the first quarter and had 26 points on 10-14 shooting by half. He was very active in the passing lane, collecting 3 steals, two of which ended with ferocious dunks. His mid range was on point; legs looked fresh, and had a nice bounce to his step. When Bryant gets hot, lanes to the basket open significantly. He has excellent court vision and is still one of the top finishers in the game.
A sloppy defensive first half lead to the Lakers down 4, interior defensive was an issue, breakdowns by the rim allowed rookie DeMarcus Cousins to finish with 22 points at the half. Nothing changed in the third, the post presence was still non-existent and shots were not falling for the Lakers. Bryant sparked the late run cutting a 20-point lead to 3 with 2:02 left in the game. It was too little too late as the Kings snap their 8 game Lakers loosing streak with a 100-95 victory. They have the 5th worst road record in the league and the win marks their 12th for the season.
The Lakers big 3 of Bynum, Gasol, and Odom were severely out played. Combined they shot 8-24 scoring 25 pts, while Cousins and Dalembert shot 16-26, 45 points. The interior defense of the Lakers, which has been prevalent all season, was nowhere to be found. The Kings shot 51% for the game, with a +14 points in the paint differential.
Bryant came into the game 13 points shy of Olajuwon, and like the rest of the Lakers overlooked the Kings to some degree. On Sunday they host the Celtics in one of sports best rivalries and a 2010 Finals rematch. Other than coming back from 20 points, the only bright spot was Bryant’s 38 points (passing Olajuwon for 8th) and 7 assists. He is in a great offensive groove and doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Next on the list is Elvin Hayes who is about 300 points ahead of Bryant. Since Boston lost tonight, both teams will be looking to rebound after poor performances.
The upcoming all-star weekend will make Bryant’s 13th consecutive all-star game. Only three players have been named to more consecutive all-star games, Jerry West, Karl Malone, and Shaquille O’Neal.