One streak ended, another pressed forward.
Kobe Bryant’s pursuit of Wilt Chamberlain was halted after he scored 43 points, but the Lakers secured their season-high fifth consecutive victory by beating the Golden State Warriors, 115-113, Sunday at Staples Center.
Bryant had scored 50 or more points in four consecutive games, three fewer than Chamberlain in December 1961.
Sunday’s matchup appeared to guarantee a Bryant bonanza: Golden State is the league’s worst defensive team, giving up 107 points a game, and Bryant was averaging 56.3 points and shooting 54.3% over a four-game spree.
But Bryant made 15 of 33 shots (45.5%) and had seven turnovers against the Warriors, with his four-point second quarter signaling the beginning of the end for his record-chasing pace.
Not that Bryant seemed overly disappointed to see it end.
“I think it energized us as a team and energized the city, and I think that’s great,” he said. “Before that, it seemed like we were kind of dead in the water in terms of energy and in terms of belief in the city in what we could do. It seemed to kind of do a 180. We’re playing with a lot more energy right now.”
Still, the game ended with a major exhale by the Lakers, when Golden State forward Al Harrington came up a little short on an open look at a three-point attempt at the buzzer, although replays appeared to show he didn’t get the shot off in time.
The way Bryant began the game, it looked like he might top the 81 points he scored against Toronto last season. He opened the scoring with a left-handed reverse layup and already had nine points by the time the game was barely two minutes old.
With three minutes left in the quarter, Bryant stood at 17 points and the first “M-V-P” chant broke out (with assistance from a scoreboard graphic).
He became more of a pick-setter and decoy in the second quarter as the Warriors made it their sole mission to deny him the ball. He then was stuck on 22 points until converting a four-point play, drilling a three-pointer after getting fouled by Jason Richardson with 3:34 left in the third quarter.
By that time, the Lakers were well on their way to losing a 19-point lead, with fans voicing their displeasure as the Warriors took a 10-point lead.
Said one second-row fan: “Put the ‘Kobe Show’ back on.”
It came on, eventually, Bryant scoring 12 points in the fourth quarter and Lamar Odom adding eight of his 24 points to push the Lakers to victory.
“Kobe came off his streak, had an off game,” Coach Phil Jackson said. “But he was instrumental in that one.”
Lost among Bryant’s scoring spree was an overall bounce for the Lakers (38-32), who lead Denver by two games for sixth place in the Western Conference.
The difference between sixth and seventh isn’t much -- either San Antonio or Phoenix as a likely first-round playoff opponent -- but the Lakers’ goal is to duplicate their level of play during last year’s 11-3 burst at the end of the regular season.
It should be attainable with a schedule that could hardly be called challenging. Of the Lakers’ 12 remaining games, only five are against teams with winning records, not to mention the opportunity provided by a glut of home games over the next nine days, with Memphis (17-53), Houston (44-26), Sacramento (30-40) and Denver (35-33) arriving at Staples Center.
Bryant has obviously done his part to create momentum, but he understood the need for more.
“At [this] point last year, we were just playing with a lot of rhythm, and that’s what we’re trying to build right now,” he said. “I think we’re doing a pretty good job, especially considering we haven’t had everybody pretty much the entire season. I think we’re kind of picking up where we left off last year pretty quickly.”
The Lakers will chase a sixth consecutive victory Tuesday against Memphis, the league’s worst team. Maybe Bryant will start up another run at Chamberlain’s record.
“I’ve always said he’s a guy that seems to be not human,” Bryant said. “The records and the things that he’s accomplished and the things that he’s done are beyond miraculous. For me to be in the same breath with him, even if it’s a short little breath, is pretty cool.”
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Kobe Bryant’s four consecutive games with at least 50 points tied him with Wilt Chamberlain, above, for the fourth-longest streak of all time. Chamberlain set the record of seven straight games in December 1961; he also had streaks of six games in 1962 and five in 1961 and 1962. Bryant scored 225 points during his streak. Chamberlain’s best four-game stretch was Feb. 25 March 2, 1962, when he scored 293 points, including 100 in a single game. A look at Chamberlain’s record streak:
*--* Date Opponent Pts Dec. 16, 1961 Chicago 50 Dec. 19, 1961 Cincinnati 57 Dec. 20, 1961 Detroit 55 Dec. 25, 1961 New York 59 Dec. 26, 1961 Syracuse 51 Dec. 27, 1961 New York 53 Dec. 29, 1961 Lakers 60 Total 385
Los Angeles Times