SEASON& SERIES NOTES; CONNECTIONS
The Lakers lead the season series with Philadelphia 1-0 after having swept last season's series with the Sixers 2-0. This will be the 266th meeting between the two franchises dating back to 1950 (184th in the Los Angeles era) and the 158th since the Sixers moved to Philadelphia prior to the 1963-64 season. The Lakers are 9-2 all-time against the 76ers at STAPLES Center. In Philadelphia, the Lakers have now won four straight but are 4-6 in their last 10 games in the city of brotherly love.
Under head coach Phil Jackson, the Lakers are 14-8 versus Philadelphia (9-1 at home, 5-7 on the road). In their last meeting earlier this month in Philadelphia (12/17/10), the Lakers held the Sixers to 81 points, bettering the old series record of 82 points that was set on Christmas Day of 2002. Kobe Bryant has played 27 games (23 starts) against his hometown Sixers, averaging 22.3 points per game. In January of 2006 vs. Philadelphia, Bryant established a new franchise record for three-point field goals without a miss, connecting on all seven of his attempts (10th time in NBA history with a minimum of seven attempts). He finished the game with 48 points, one shy of Jerry West's Lakers series record of 49 points established in February of 1968. Additionally, Bryant earned the first of his two MVP honors at the 2002 All-Star Game held in Philadelphia. Pau Gasol is the only other Laker averaging 20-plus points against the Sixers for his career, posting a 21.9 average over 17 games with a high of 34 points. Also, Sixers guard Andre Iguodala played two seasons at the University of Arizona and was a freshman during Luke Walton's final season as a Wildcat in 2002-03. Lamar Odom, Ron Artest and Elton Brand all played together as teenagers in the famed AAU program at Riverside Church in New York.
CLEANING THE GLASS
In the first half of their 103-88 victory December 29th at New Orleans, the Lakers shot a season-high .676 from the field while limiting the Hornets to just seven rebounds in the first 24 minutes. The Hornets seven rebounds (4 offensive, 3 defensive) equal the fewest ever for a Lakers opponent in a half, matching the Mavericks total of seven in a half 2/4/86 vs. Dallas.
BRYANT APPROACHES TOP 10 ON NBA'S ALL-TIME SCORING LIST
With 20 points 12/29 at New Orleans, Kobe Bryant moved to within 75 points of Dominique Wilkins (26,668) for 10th on the NBA's all-time scoring list. Earlier this season, with 23 points at Chicago (12/10/10), Bryant passed John Havlicek (26,395) for 11th on the NBA's all-time scoring list. Should he continue to score anywhere near his current pace (25.1 ppg), Bryant (26,593) would move to 6th on the all-time list by season's end. Next on the all-time list ahead of Bryant and Wilkins are Oscar Robertson (9th/26,710), Hakeem Olajuwon (8th/26,946), Elvin Hayes (7th/27,313) and Moses Malone (6th/27,409).
Bryant has been steadily moving up the list over the past few years and last season alone, passed Alex English (25,613), Reggie Miller (25,279), Jerry West (25,192), Patrick Ewing (24,815) and Allen Iverson (24,368). In passing West with a slam dunk at the 4:14 mark of the third quarter February 1, 2010 at Memphis, finishing the game with 44 points (West's retired number), Bryant became the leading scorer in Lakers franchise history. In 2008-09, Bryant passed Hall-of-Famers Charles Barkley (23,757), Robert Parish (23,334), Adrian Dantley (23,177), Elgin Baylor (23,149), Clyde Drexler (22,195), Gary Payton (21,813) and Larry Bird (21,791).
In their victory at New Orleans on December 29th, the Lakers posted season-highs for field goal percentage in a quarter (1st quarter/.750), half (1st half/.676) and game (.586) after connecting on only 37.9 percent of their shots in the previous two games combined. Additionally, it was the first time this season that each of the Lakers starters (Artest, Gasol, Bynum, Bryant, Fisher) shot 50 percent or better from the field in the same game.*
RARE HOME STRUGGLES
On Christmas Day, the Lakers lost by 16 points to Miami. In their previous game on December 21st, they lost by 19 points to Milwaukee. With both losses coming at home, it's only the 3rd time in franchise history that the Lakers have lost back-to-back home games by at least 16 points. The team was in Minneapolis the previous two times this occurred, once in January 1959 and once in November/December 1959. In both cases, the Lakers played at least one road game in between losses.* The Lakers last lost three straight home games by any margin in March of 2008: 3/23 vs. GS (111-115), 3/26 vs. CHA (95-108), 3/28 vs. MEM (111-114). The last time the Lakers lost three straight home games, each by double-figures, came in January/February of 1993: 1/18 vs. HOU (90-110), 1/20 vs. SEA (101-111), 2/2 vs. ORL (97-110).
KOBE BRYANT LEADS ALL PLAYERS AFTER 2nd ROUND OF ALL-STAR BALLOTING
On December 30th, the NBA announced its SECOND returns of 2011 NBA All-Star balloting with Kobe Bryant (1,153,694) LEADING all players in All-Star voting, ahead of Dwight Howard (988,572) and LeBron James (969,459). Pau Gasol (597,201), who made his third All-Star team last season as a reserve, now ranks 3rd among forwards in the West behind Kevin Durant (735,521) and Carmelo Anthony (602,516). Andrew Bynum (376,283) ranks 2nd among West centers behind Yao Ming (637,527), while Chris Paul (585,690) ranks 2nd among West guards behind Bryant. In the East, James and Kevin Garnett (712,555) lead the forward voting, Dwyane Wade (938,402) and Rajon Rondo (777,310) are the top two vote-getters at guard and Howard leads all East centers in balloting.
In each of the last three seasons, Bryant has led the Western Conference in all-star balloting. Last season, Bryant received 2,456,224 votes, finishing second overall to Cleveland's LeBron James (2,549,693). In 2008-09, he accumulated 2,805,397 votes, finishing third in overall balloting behind Dwight Howard (3,150,181) and James (2,940,823). In 2007-08, Bryant garnered 2,004,940 votes to finish fourth in overall voting behind Kevin Garnett (2,399,148), James (2,108,831) and Howard (2,066,991). In 2006-07, when he earned his second All-Star MVP, Bryant finished third overall in balloting behind James and Yao Ming. A three-time All-Star MVP (2002 Philadelphia, 2007 Las Vegas, 2009 Phoenix), Bryant is a 12-time All-Star and had started 11 consecutive All-Star games before missing last year's contest due to a sprained left ankle. Bryant, who was the youngest All-Star in NBA history in 1998, led all players in NBA All-Star balloting in 2003. Gasol has made three All-Star appearances (2006, 2009, 2010) and in 2009, became the 27th Laker in franchise history to be named to an All-Star team.
BRYANT NOW 3RD ON NBA FRANCHISE CAREER POINTS LIST
Last season, with his 29th point on February 1, 2010 at Memphis, Kobe Bryant surpassed Jerry West as the Lakers all-time leading scorer. In the history of the NBA, only two players have scored more points with a single franchise than Bryant (26,593): Karl Malone (1st/36,374) and Michael Jordan (2nd/29,277). This season, Bryant has moved past Hakeem Olajuwon (26,511) for 3rd on this list (12/19 at Toronto) and John Havlicek (26,395) for 4th (12/10 at Chicago).
Entering the Lakers game vs. Philadelphia, Derek Fisher has played in 445 consecutive regular season games dating back to April 15, 2005, the longest consecutive games streak among all active NBA players. Fisher moved into the top position after Portland's Andre Miller (632) missed the Blazers game against Phoenix (12/7/10) due to NBA suspension. Additionally, Fisher has started 323 consecutive regular season games dating back to January 15, 2007, tops among all active players by more than a season's worth of games (2nd – Luis Scola). Former Laker A.C. Green holds the NBA record for most consecutive games played with 1,192 dating from 11/19/86 – 4/18/01 while a member of the Lakers, Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat.
BUMP IN THE ROAD
With their loss December 28th at San Antonio, the Lakers saw their five game road win streak come to an end while extending a different, rather dubious streak. In falling to the Spurs 82-97, the Lakers lost three consecutive games by double-figures for the first time since March of 2007, when they lost five consecutive games by 10 or more points (3/6/07 – 3/15/07, 4 road losses, 1 home).
With their 109-94 victory in Indiana on December 15th, the Lakers recorded their FIFTH wire-to-wire win of the season. The Lakers other wire-to-wire victories came against the Warriors (10/31 vs. GS, 11/21 vs. GS), Grizzlies (11/2 vs. MEM) and Wizards (12/7 vs. WAS). Last year, the Lakers claimed NINE wire-to-wire victories (games in which they never trailed); seven during the regular season and two during the 2010 Playoffs (4/18 & 4/27 vs. Oklahoma City). During their previous championship run in 2008-09, the Lakers claimed 11 wire-to-wire victories; nine during the regular season and two during the 2009 Playoffs (4/29 vs. Utah & 5/17 vs. Houston). Last season, the Lakers also lost twice in wire-to-wire fashion (98-107 1/8/10 @ POR and 75-91 3/26/10 @ OKC).
This season, the Lakers are 4-2 in the first game and 5-1 in the second of back-to-backs. On the year, the Lakers will play 15 sets of back-to-back games as opposed to the 20 they faced a season ago. The only other time the Lakers have played 15 or fewer sets of back-to-backs came in the team's first ever NBA season (1948-49) when they also played 15 sets of back-to-backs. Chicago, Milwaukee and Atlanta lead the league with 23 back-to-backs each in 2010-11 while Oklahoma City (17), Phoenix (16) and the Lakers (15) will play the fewest sets this season.