<
>

Bryant scores 56 ... in three quarters

1/15/2002

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Phil Jackson has seen this act before -- many
times from a guy named Jordan.

Nevertheless, he was clearly impressed with what Kobe Bryant
accomplished Monday night.

Bryant made certain the two-time defending NBA champion Los
Angeles Lakers wouldn't miss suspended star Shaquille O'Neal,
scoring a career-high 56 points as the Lakers routed the Memphis
Grizzlies 120-81.

Bryant, playing with O'Neal's No. 34 scrawled in black ink on
the side of both shoes, had the most points in an NBA game this
season despite sitting out the fourth quarter.

"It was a wonderful night for him," said Jackson, who coached
the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls to six championships in the
1990s. "This is terrific, I haven't seen him any better than he
was tonight.

"We had a meeting as a team this morning and he said, `I take
responsibility for what happened a lot in the last couple of games
and I want to make up for it tonight.' I thought that meant he was
going to pass the ball."

Jackson made the remark with a smile, and got a big laugh out of
the assembled media.

Bryant's previous career high was 51 points at Golden State on
Dec. 5, 2000, and the previous NBA best this season was 53 by San
Antonio's Tim Duncan in a 126-123 overtime loss to Dallas on Dec.
26.

Bryant made 21 of 34 shots, including 3-for-6 from 3-point
range, and 11 of 12 free throws while playing 34 minutes. He also
had five rebounds and four assists.

Bryant probably could have challenged the franchise-record 71
points scored by Elgin Baylor more than 40 years ago had the game
not been so one-sided; it was 98-59 entering the fourth quarter.

Bryant said he was happy to come out of the game, and Jackson
said he made the decision due to the one-sided nature of the
contest.

"For some reason, I felt really good," Bryant said. "I felt
like I was in a groove. I didn't get the feeling of the basket
being big, I had a lot of bounce. The legs felt extremely good."

Bryant said he heard about O'Neal's suspension on his way to the
game, and decided to write his teammate's number on his shoes.

It was just a year ago the two took their simmering feud public.
Things sure have changed.

"I love you, man," Bryant said when asked if he had a message
for O'Neal, who was suspended by the NBA for three games earlier in
the day for fighting with Chicago's Brad Miller on Saturday night.

The 23-year-old Bryant, in his sixth NBA season, scored 18
points in each of the first two quarters as the Lakers took a 63-45
halftime lead, and added 20 more in the third period, including a
3-pointer with 1:44 remaining that gave him a career high.

Shortly thereafter, many in the sellout crowd of 18,997 at
Staples Center began chanting "Kobe! Kobe!" and the chant
continued while he watched from the bench early in the fourth
quarter.

"That was one of the most incredible things you'll probably
ever see," said teammate Robert Horry, a 10-year NBA veteran.
"Words can't describe what that cat did tonight. He was unreal."

Averaging 25.8 points entering the game, Bryant surpassed his
previous season-high of 39 by making two free throws with 8:20 left
in the third quarter.

After that, he just kept going and going until he got to 56.

"He was unbelievable, he was unconscious, inside, outside,"
Grizzlies coach Sidney Lowe said. "I want to say we looked a
little tired, but I can't take anything away from him. He's just
too good."

By winning, the Lakers avoided their first three-game losing
streak under Jackson, their coach since the start of the 1999-00
season. They have a 180-57 record under Jackson, including 30-8 in
the playoffs.

Horry had 12 points, 11 rebounds and six assists for the Lakers.
Derek Fisher added 11 points and Mark Madsen had 10 points and
eight rebounds.

Rookie Pau Gasol led the Grizzlies with 25 points and 12
rebounds, and Stromile Swift added 22 points and 12 rebounds.

The loss snapped Memphis' season-high three-game winning streak,
and was the first for the Grizzlies since Jason Williams, held to
one point in this game, called them the NBA's worst team after a
loss to Seattle.

The Lakers went ahead for good by scoring 11 straight points for
a 24-14 lead. Gasol, averaging a team-leading 16.0 points, scored
his team's first 10.

Game notes
O'Neal, averaging 25.6 points and 10.7 rebounds, must also
sit out Wednesday night's game against visiting Miami and
Saturday's nationally televised game at San Antonio. ... Horry made
his first start of the season as a replacement for O'Neal. ... The
Lakers haven't lost three straight regular-season games since April
1999, and a team coached by Jackson hasn't lost three in a row
since January 1995, when he was coaching the Bulls and Michael
Jordan was playing baseball. ... The Lakers' 27-8 record is the
NBA's best, but they have lost at Memphis, Golden State and Chicago
in the past month. Those three teams were in last place in their
respective divisions when those games were played. ... The Lakers
are 24-2 against the Grizzlies, including 14-0 in Los Angeles since
they joined the NBA as an expansion team in Vancouver six years
ago. They moved to Memphis before this season. ... Memphis' Nick
Anderson didn't dress for the game because of the flu.