10:30 PM ET, January 10, 2012
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
Bryant finished with 48 points, tops in the league this season, in a 99-83 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night, the Lakers' seventh straight win at home and third in a row overall.
"Not bad for the seventh-best player in the league," Bryant said, referring to an online ranking of the NBA's top 500 players.
The NBA's leading scorer topped the 40-point mark for the first time this season with his fifth straight game of 25 or more. Bryant was 18 of 31 from the floor and made 12 of 13 free throws. Pau Gasol added 16 points and 12 rebounds.
"If I play bad or have one bad game like I did in Denver, everybody cries for a change or cries for the fact that I'm too old. It's just a bad game with a bad wrist," Bryant said, referring to his 16 points in a loss against the Nuggets on New Year's Day. "You got to figure out a way to get it done."
Bryant said he gets an injection before every game to cope with his ailing right wrist.
In his previous four games, Bryant had 26 points against Memphis on Sunday, 39 against Golden State, 30 at Portland and 37 against Houston.
"He's always going to be aggressive and assertive to score, but he's picking his spots and he's doing it in a very efficient manner," Derek Fisher said.
"That ranks it right up there with the best of them because it doesn't look like he's trying to do it. He's just doing it within the flow of the game. That's been very effective for him and for us."
The victory was especially sweet for Bryant, who has never hidden his disdain for the Suns, a team right behind the Lakers in the Pacific Division.
"I don't like them," he said. "They used to whup us pretty good and let us know about it. I won't forget that."
The Suns hung around until the game's final 6 1/2 minutes, when they trailed by one. That's when Bryant took over with a variety of moves, banking in a jumper, dunking on consecutive baskets, hitting a fade away and making his free throws.
"He's the best player in the game, so you come to expect that type of performance from him, if not regularly, then throughout the season at different times," Nash said. "He was phenomenal."
Shannon Brown scored Phoenix's first six points of the fourth quarter, twice drawing the Suns within one. He and Frye then hit consecutive 3-pointers that got the Suns to 83-82, but they were never able to take the lead in Brown's first game against his former team. He finished with 11 points.
"If he don't care about his wrist, I don't care about his wrist," Frye said. "Everybody makes a big deal about it, but he's been scoring 28, 30 a game. So let's just call it what it is. He's a great player, he's the best individual player in basketball, and every night he comes to work. For us, we don't like losing to the Lakers. But they came out and played a good game, and he played an amazing game."
Phoenix led by one in the third and tied the game twice after that before getting outscored 11-6 to end the quarter trailing 73-68.
"I thought we did a good job of defending Kobe, but the guy makes tough shots. There's a reason he is who he is," Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. "Obviously, Kobe took the game over at the end there and we just couldn't make the shots. Part of it was their defense, and part of it was that we just didn't make the doggone things."
The Lakers led 46-40 at the break after allowing the Suns to erase most of their 12-point lead in the second quarter. The Suns got balanced scoring in a 15-2 run that drew them within one before Bryant and Gasol keyed a 9-2 spurt to end the first half, when Bryant scored 23.
Bryant scored 13 of the Lakers' final 15 points to put them up 25-19 in the first quarter after they trailed by nine.
It was Bryant's 108th career 40-point game. He had three last season. ... The Lakers had 15 turnovers after turning the ball over 27 times in a 90-82 win against Memphis two nights earlier. ... The Lakers G Jason Kapono missed the game to be with his wife after she gave birth to twins and F-C Troy Murphy sat out with an upset stomach. ... Brown said he had mixed emotions about facing the team he won two NBA titles with before leaving the Lakers as a free agent. Bryant scored over Brown to end the first quarter. ... The game was the first of 18 back-to-back sets the Lakers will play in this lockout-shortened season. They'll be at Utah on Wednesday night.
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||34-80 (.425)||39-80 (.488)|
|3PM-3PA||7-20 (.350)||2-17 (.118)|
|FTM-FTA||8-12 (.667)||19-23 (.826)|
|Fast Break Points||4||6|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||16 (2/0)||18 (0/0)|
Next 5 Games
There has been speculation as to Kobe being on the decline. Given Tuesday's performance of an NBA-best 48 points this season, that could not be further from the truth. He is averaging more points, assists and rebounds per game than in any of his three previous seasons. In two of those seasons he was anything but on the decline, being named NBA Finals Most Valuable player.[+]
Has He Even Peaked?
Kobe Bryant is currently second in the league in scoring. Every single player in the top 10 in scoring so far in this NBA campaign is at least 27 years old or younger with the exception of Bryant. He is averaging nearly 10 points more per game than Derrick Rose, last year's MVP.[+]
Kobe Bryant has 324 points through his first 11 games this season, ranking him third in scoring since 1985 among players who were at least 33 years old.
Most Points Through 1st 11 Games33-plus Years Old, Last 25 Seasons
From Elias: In NBA history no player has been in at least their 16th season and scored 48 points in one game until Tuesday. His toughness and consistency is among the all-time greats. The other two players on this list are multiple NBA Finals MVP award winners, certainly not a bad list to belong to.[+]
Kobe Bryant had 17 points in the 1st quarter against the Suns. It's his 30th career game in which he scored 17 or more points in the 1st quarter. Last time he scored 17+ was 2-11-11 (19 points at Knicks)
ESPN Stats & Information