For far too many times, Mike D’Antoni watched in frustration as Kobe Bryant torched his teams.
It happened when D’Antoni coached the Phoenix Suns. It happened when he coached the New York Knicks, including Bryant’s 61-point performance Feb 2, 2009 that set a Madison Square Garden record. But with Bryant averaging 36 points on 53.2 percent shooting and seven assists in the last five games, D’Antoni can now watch in amazement.
“You feel a little bit better,” D’Antoni said with a laugh. “Food tastes a little bit better at night.”
The Lakers’ 119-116 overtime victory Friday over the Toronto Raptors featured Bryant dropping 41 points and 12 assists, an accomplishment that he somehow topped from earlier games. There was the 34 points and the one-handed dunk that punctuated the Lakers’ 99-98 win Sunday over the Atlanta Hawks. There was the 30 points Bryant produced despite nursing an injury to the funny bone of his right elbow in the Lakers’ loss Tuesday to Oklahoma City. There was the 42 points Bryant scored as he led the Lakers’ from a 25-point deficit Wednesday against New Orleans.
Against Toronto, Bryant led the Lakers’ charge by making three 3-pointers in the final 1:41 of regulation and topped it off with a two-handed slam in extra regulation.
“The three shots and three threes he hit, most people won’t hit one in a career,” D’Antoni said. “HE hit three in one night. It’s unbelievable what he did. You’ve seen it before. Out in Phoenix I saw it. I was on the other end of it. I can’t explain it. Nobody can explain it. He’s just great.”
What’s gone into Bryant finding that extra energy despite the extra workload?
“You have to ask him,” D’Antoni said. “He’s done it every year. Has he done it at age 34 and 35? No. Will he do it at 36? Who knows. He keeps going so he did it at age 33 and doing it at age 34.”
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