Kobe Goes Off Again as Lakers Rout Rockets
L.A. Lakers 104, Houston 88
LOS ANGELES, April 2 (Ticker) -- Kobe Bryant has been carrying the Los Angeles Lakers all season. Now he has a place in the franchise record book to prove it.
Bryant scored 43 points to tie a franchise record for 40-point games in a season and keyed a decisive third-quarter burst as the Lakers posted a 104-88 victory over the Houston Rockets.
"I just tried to create some momentum in the third quarter because the third quarter has been our nemeses all year," Bryant said. "I wanted to create energy that we could get behind and sustain it. And have it translate to the defense and we were able to do that."
The Lakers outscored the Rockets, 37-18, in the third period, ending the quarter on a 10-0 run. Bryant ignited the run with an alley-oop dunk and capped the burst with a 3-pointer to give Los Angeles an 88-70 lead.
Bryant finished 19-of-32 from the field and added six assists. The outburst was his 23rd 40-point game of the season, matching the franchise record set by Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor in the 1962-63 season.
"I didn't even know the record existed until a couple of days ago," Bryant said. "I never, in my wildest dreams, dreamed of being in such great company like Elgin. There have been a lot of great players in this franchise and I have learned a lot from some of them."
Lamar Odom scored 21 points and Smush Parker added 15 and 10 assists for Los Angeles (40-35), which entered Sunday holding the seventh spot in the Western Conference postseason race, 1 1/2 games ahead of eighth-place Sacramento (37-36) and just 2 1/2 behind sixth-place Memphis (41-32).
Yao finished with 33 points and 16 rebounds for the Rockets (32-41).
"We really played well at the beginning of the game," Yao said. "But in the third quarter when Kobe hit those shots they were great shots and our defenders did everything they could do.
"That third quarter was the turning point of the game. We were frustrated by that because we thought we did every thing we could do but he still hit those shots."
Rocket coach Jeff Van Gundy is looking for some mental strength from his ball club.
"We're not a mentally strong team," Van Gundy said. "We didn't play particularly well either but I have to give the Lakers a lot of credit for that. The Lakers made a concerted effort to test our shooting. And that proved to be a good decision. Our other four starters shot 12 for 41."