Watching Kobe Bryant eviscerate Andrei Kirilenko in Thursday night’s game, I have to suspect that somewhere Raja Bell was feeling a little uneasy. There is nobody in the NBA with Bryant’s determination, and he proved it by scoring 52 points against Utah.
After last Friday’s game in Salt Lake City, Bryant was asked about the defense Kirilenko played against him in the fourth quarter. Bryant had two points and missed all three shots he took in the final period. The Lakers also found it easier to attack with Kwame Brown and Lamar Odom than to have a “leg-weary” Bryant battle Kirilenko.
I don’t remember exactly what Bryant said after the locker room cleared out but it definitely started with “If I have to read in a Utah newspaper that Kirilenko shut me down…” and went from there. It turned out Bryant heard the Jazz television commentators praising Kirilenko when he watched tape of the game later.
So Bryant hit shot after shot over Kirilenko in Thursday’s game. It was amazing to watch Bryant do that to a player who had seven blocks and six steals in a game against the Lakers last season. The short list of defenders who can hang with Bryant is pretty much limited to Ron Artest, Bruce Bowen, Bell, Kirilenko and a couple of others.
Bryant’s comments after Thursday’s game when reminded about what he said in Utah started with “Damn right.” He also offered the reminder to some of us that “When I’m not scoring, I’m facilitating.” In short, there is no one who can stop Kobe other than Kobe.
Which brings us to Bell, who has to be at the top of Bryant’s hit list. Long before he clotheslined Bryant in Game 5 of the playoffs last season, Bell held him to 37 points on 12 of 33 shooting in a January game in Phoenix. (Yes, held is the right word considering Bryant had 51 the game before and 81 the game after.)
I asked Bryant after that game if Bell had played one of the “better” defensive games against him that season. Not even best, just better. I forget what his answer was but he glared and said, “You should know better than ask that” after all the questions were over. It’s not a question we’re going to be revisiting.
There will come a time when Bryant is going to unload on Raja Bell. I have no idea if he’ll produce a 30-point quarter or a 50-point game or whatever. But it’s going to be stunning to watch.
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Notes for Friday . . .
By Ross Siler
EL SEGUNDO–How different might the NBA record books be if Kobe Bryant didnt get stuck reaching 50 points by the third quarter of so many blowout games?
Bryants 52-point game Thursday against Utah was just the latest example. He reached the mark by the end of the third quarter, with the Lakers leading 95-73, and returned for 3:23 of the fourth quarter with instructions to simply run the offense.
It was the 12th 50-point game of his career as well as the fifth time Bryant had done so in only three quarters. He had 62 points through three quarters and did not come back in the fourth last December against Dallas.
Bryant also had 56 points in three quarters against Memphis in January 2002 and 51 points in three quarters against Denver in February 2003. He did not play the fourth quarter in either of those games.
He had 50 points after three quarters of a March 2003 game against Michael Jordan and the Washington Wizards and sat out the first six minutes of the fourth quarter before returning. Bryant finished with 55 points.
The one time Bryants scoring was needed in the fourth quarter of such a game came when he had 53 points in three quarters against the Toronto Raptors in January.
The Lakers led only 91-85 heading into the fourth quarter. And Bryant went on to score 28 points in the final period to finish with 81, the second-highest total in NBA history after Wilt Chamberlains immortal 100-point game in March 1962.
“Its just funny that when I have games like that, they tend to be blowouts, Bryant said Friday, “which says that me going off like that energizes us as a ballclub and deflates our opposition, because we wind up just running them over.
Only five players – - Chamberlain, Bryant, David Thompson, Elgin Baylor and David Robinson – - ever have scored 70 points in a game. Chamberlain did it five times in his career.
Bryant finished 19 of 26 (73.1 percent) from the field in what was the second-best shooting game of his career. He hit 20 of 26 shots (76.9 percent) in a December 2000 victory over the Houston Rockets.
After his 81-point game, Bryant said he took note of opposing teams being “on edge with every game he played in the following weeks. He was asked if he expected the similar double-teams and defensive attention after Thursdays game.
“We have such a balanced attack this season. Its a little different, Bryant said. “Last year, when I went on that run, we werent quite established yet.
“Now we have a well-rounded attack with guys that can shoot the ball and have confidence in themselves. Itll be interesting to see what (other teams) do.
Lakers coach Phil Jackson was happy to see that Bryants scoring was not a solo act. The Lakers scored 132 points – - 80 of which did not come from Bryant – - and shot 60 percent.
Measured game: Talking about forward Lamar Odom before Sundays game, Jackson noted, “I always kind of measure Lamar from the Clippers situation, referring to the games Odom plays against the team with which he started his NBA career.
Odom had 18 points but shot 6 of 18 in the Lakers victory over the Clippers on Nov. 21. The two teams will play again tonight in what will be a Clippers home game.
“I think sometimes P.J. and Brian Shaw say I play a little too emotional against them, Odom said. “I dont know. I just try to go out there and compete hard and hopefully I can do the same thing.
Also: The Lakers are 1-3 on the road this season, with Jackson saying a victory in front of a Clippers crowd would be a positive step. “Its definitely a road game, Jackson said. “Theres definitely a different feel to the building.