Antawn Jamison picks up scoring slack during Kobe Bryant’s absence

There marked a time just over 12 years ago when Kobe Bryant and Antawn Jamison both were considered among the league’s best scorers.

Such talent set up a memorable showdown where Bryant with the Lakers and Jamison with the Golden State Warriors each scored 51 points, with the two trading baskets six times in the game’s final two minutes. All these years later, both remain top scorers. Bryant ranks fifth time on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, and is only 122 points away from surpassing Wilt Chamberlain’s 31,419 career points for fourth place . Jamison ranks at 39 overall and is only 176 points shy from reaching 20,000 career points.

Jamison joined the Lakers this season despite taking a heavy paycut with the $1.4 million veteran’s minimum and a guarantee his career 18.9 points per game average would plummet when mixed in with a host of stars, including Bryant, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol. But it should be hardly surprising that Jamison’s scoring slack significantly increased while Bryant’s remained hobbled with a sprained left ankle.

When Bryant lasted for only one quarter in the Lakers’ win Friday over Indiana, Jamison offset the difference by dropping 17 points on 6 of 10 shooting and a 4 of 7 clip from three-point range. When Bryant sat out altogether in the Lakers’ win Sunday over Sacramento, Jamison took the scoring to another notch by posting a team-leading 27 points on 8 of 14 shooting and a 5 of 8 mark from three-point range.

“He’s had big games for us. He understands how important he is for our team and what he can bring,” Howard said. “As of late, he’s been on fire. We like Antawn Even though he’s one of the oldest guys on the team, he still has it.”

Yup, even at 37 years old, Jamison’s scoring in prolific bunches in the same way he did when he matched up with Bryant more than 12 years ago.

Perhaps not with the same volume, but Jamison has still maintained a strong scoring punch with great efficiency. Consider his averages in both February (13.2 points on 48.5 percent shooting) and March (11.1 points on 50.7 percent shooting).

“I’m going with the flow of the game,” Jamison said. “I’m not trying to do anything out of my means or what I’m not capable of doing.”

But with Bryant once comparing Jamison to a “cockroach” because he can fit through any defensive cracks, it’s clear Jamison can do a lot. In the Lakers’ 113-102 win Sunday over the Sacramento Kings, Jamison mostly canned open three-pointers because of effective floor spacing. But he also made two baskets simply by moving off-the-ball into the lane.

Jamison outlined a clear thought process on when he plays with Steve Nash, Steve Blake and Bryant on the floor.

“I know when Blake is out there, I try to get as many pick and rolls as much as possible. The same with Nash as well,” Jamison said. “When Kobe is there, I try to sneak in there and get some easy baskets.”

More often than not, Jamison’s teammates find him.

“As a point guard, he’s probably one of the easiest people to play with,” Lakers guard Steve Blake said. “He knows when to slip and knows when to pop and reads the floor extremely well. He makes quick decisions when he gets the basketball. He’s been awesome for us all year.”

Not entirely.

Jamison went on a seven-game stretch where Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni sat him for a multitude of reasons. Jordan Hill provided better energy. Metta World Peace provided better defense. Jamison’s shot remained shaky. It bothered Jamison enough to publicly lament about it before clearing the air with D’Antoni.

But once Hill suffered a season-ending left hip injury Jan. 6 against the Denver Nuggets, Jamison changed his mindset.

“That’s when I stopped worrying about if I missed this shot, I’ll be coming out,” Jamison said. “It doesn’t matter if you’ve been playing 15 years or two or three years. If you’re looking behind your shoulder, it’s kind of hard to be exactly who you are. Ever since the minutes have been consistent, I’ve been going out there competing and playing hard.”

And as it’s been for Jamison’s entire basketball career, that’s simply entailed scoring in a multitude of ways.

Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at mark.medina@dailynews.com

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