Lakers 132, Utah 102, Kobe 52

The night that he scored 81 points against the Toronto Raptors, Kobe Bryant made 28 of 46 shots (60.9 percent). The night that he scored 62 points in three quarters against Dallas, Bryant made 18 of 31 shots (58.1).

You can probably see where this is going. The night that he scored 45 points and set an NBA record by connecting on 12 3-pointers against Seattle, Bryant made 16 of 28 shots (57.1).

The night that he had his old career-high of 56 against Memphis, also in three quarters, Bryant made 21 of 34 shots (61.8). And the night he had 55 points against Michael Jordan and the Wizrds, Bryant made 15 of 29 shots (51.7).

There are some questions you cant answer on deadline, but Thursdays game might have been the best shooting night in Kobe Bryants career. Bryant hit 19 of 26 shots (73.1 percent) en route to scoring 52 points in three quarters.

The efficiency of that is just staggering. Some of the best guys to talk to after each of these signature games by Bryant are the newcomers, who have seen them on TV but never experienced them in person.

Here was what Maurice Evans had to say afterward: He had 52 tonight, but Ive been in games as an opponent where hes beaten us with 40 and things like that. It wasnt nothing I hadnt seen from him before.

“I was impressed in the way he did it, how efficient he was. I think we did a good job continuing to play. A lot of times, when a guy gets hot and starts scoring, then people stop and start watching.

“The guys kept the energy up and didnt allow (Utah) to make a run that would have negated what he did offensively.

Bryant had made just 8 of 24 shots and taken 14 3-pointers in Tuesdays loss to Milwaukee. The fact that he did it against the NBAs best team only makes it more special. Bryants scoring average increased to 26.2 from 24.1 Thursday.

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Bryants 30-point third quarter tied a franchise record and was the fourth-highest scoring quarter in NBA history.

The top three: 1. George Gervin, 33 points, April 9, 1978; 2. David Thompson, 32 points, April 9, 1978; 3. Wilt Chamberlain, 31 points, March 2, 1968.

So youre looking at Gervin and Thompsons battle for the scoring title on the last day of the NBA season and Chamberlains 100-point game. There was nothing contrived about what Bryant did.

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The Lakers outscored Utah 8-2 with Bryant on the bench in the second quarter. Just thought that was worth noting. Maurice Evans gave the Lakers a lift in that stretch and finished with 17 points.

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The Lakers finished November with a 10-5 record and bounced back from Tuesdays loss to Milwaukee. Lakers coach Phil Jackson cited one difference between good and great teams as their ability to stop losing streaks before they start.

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By Ross Siler
Staff Writer

The last time Kobe Bryant had a game like he did Thursday night, the team on the receiving end had started the season 1-15. Not with 13 wins in the seasons first 16 games, as the Utah Jazz did in bringing the NBAs best record to Staples Center.

That didnt stop Bryant from delivering a performance not seen since his epic 81-point game against Toronto in January. Bryant scored 52 points in three quarters, before briefly returning in the fourth quarter, in the Lakers 132-102 victory over the Jazz.

Bryant tied his franchise record by scoring 30 points in the third quarter, making all nine shots he took from the field and all 10 free throws. The 52 points Bryant had through three quarters was only one shy of his third-quarter total in the 81-point game.

With that, Bryant had his first signature moment in the 13 games he has worn the new No. 24. It was a fact not lost on two of the teams longtime ballboys, who greeted Bryant after the game by saying, “We see signs of ocho.”

It also was an emphatic declaration that Bryant was back in full, a month after returning from right knee surgery. And it was sweet revenge for Bryant, who finished with two points and missed all three shots he took in the fourth quarter last Friday against Utah.

“After the last game, coming into tonight, Bryant said, “I knew that I had to just go for it and just believe that my strength and my health would be there.

The Jazz tried to play a zone defense against the Lakers early in the third quarter, before putting forward Andrei Kirilenko on Bryant, then finally leaving guard Gordan Giricek to fight for his life against a player on an unstoppable roll.

“The guys a great shooter and a terrific player but I never had anyone foul out guarding him, Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. “So that says its not important enough to try.

It was the 12th 50-point game in Bryants career. He set the franchise record for points in a quarter with 30 in the third quarter of his 62-point explosion against Dallas last December. The NBA record of 33 points in a quarter belongs to George Gervin.

The Jazz put Kirilenko, one of the NBAs best defenders, on Bryant midway through the third quarter. And Bryant hit a shot that even he couldnt believe over Kirilenko, an 11-foot floater from the left side.

“I was really, really hot tonight, Bryant said. “I didnt miss. I knew I was feeling it when I hit a one-legged runner, fading away. Then I knew it was a pretty good night.

For me, Ive never taken that shot before, just outside of growing up as a kid, playing in the backyard. But you get in a flow, you just do it.

The next possession, Bryant sized up Kirilenko with a series of between the legs dribbles and buried a 20-footer over him. Bryant had promised to answer back after Kirilenko held him in check in the fourth quarter last week.

There was nothing Utah could do to stop Bryant. He drilled back-to-back 3-pointers over Giricek with three minutes left in the third quarter as the Lakers went ahead by 20 points and the MVP chants echoed.

Bryant drew a three-shot foul against Deron Williams later in the quarter and capped things with a 20-footer with 1:08 left. Bryant scored 30 of the Lakers 42 points in the quarter. The Lakers went into the fourth quarter leading 95-73.

Lakers coach Phil Jackson brought back Bryant with 8:10 left in the fourth quarter and his team leading 101-81. Jackson said afterward that he wanted Bryant to run the offense and bridge the gap as the starters went to the bench.

Bryant missed the only shot he took in the fourth – - he hit 11 consecutive shots at one point – - but had two assists. He finished 19 of 26 (73.7 percent) from the field, 2 of 3 from 3-point range and 12 of 15 from the foul line.

“Ive seen a lot of great games from Kobe, Jackson said, “but that was a terrific performance.

After all the trouble the Lakers had breaking Milwaukees zone defense in Tuesdays loss, Bryant sent a message when the Jazz tried to do the same at the start of the third quarter.

Bryant took a pass from Lamar Odom at the foul line, getting to the middle of the zone with five Jazz players around him, and threw down a huge dunk with a stare. A minute later, Bryant drilled a turnaround 12-footer to again bust open the zone.

“It helps when I get in there, Bryant said, “and start doing things like that because then we all start getting confidence from there.

Neither Kwame Brown nor Andrew Bynum could match the impact forward Ronny Turiaf brought in the first half. Turiaf checked in for Bynum and played the last 8:12 of the second quarter, with the Lakers outscoring the Jazz 21-7 in that time.

Turiaf brought the scrappiness, with four points, two blocks and two rebounds, and Bryant scored 10 points in the last 4 1-2 minutes of the quarter. Bryant punctuated things by driving for a ferocious dunk with 3.9 seconds left in the half.

“We already had control of that game, guard Maurice Evans said. “(Bryant) just gave them no chance at all.

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  • kobe888

    Great article. Lakers’ getting better now.

    PS: Kobe’s best shooting game is the game against Rockets back in Dec 2000. He was 20 of 26, and 5 for 5 at the free throw line. He got 45 points that game.