SEASON & SERIES NOTES; CONNECTIONS
The Lakers won last season’s series with Phoenix 3-1 and have now taken four consecutive season series from the Suns by a 3-1 margin. This will be the 218th meeting between the two teams with the Lakers leading the all-time series 128-89. The Lakers are 17-7 against the Suns all-time at STAPLES Center during the regular season and 7-3 in their last 10 regular season home games against Phoenix. On the road, the Lakers have gone 6-4 in their last 10 regular season visits to Phoenix but are 6-2 in their last eight regular season games at US Airways Center. Most recently, the Lakers defeated the Suns in triple overtime at STAPLES Center back on March 22, 2011. The three-overtime contest was just the second ever in Los Angeles (1-1), fourth since the team moved West prior to the 1960-61 season (2-2) and tied for the second longest game in franchise history behind a quadruple overtime loss in January of 1980 at Cleveland. In 53 career games against the Suns including 46 starts, Kobe Bryant is averaging 26.0 points. In February of 2009, Bryant shared MVP honors with then Sun Shaquille O’Neal at the 2009 NBA All-Star Game in Phoenix. Bryant and Suns guard Steve Nash were both selected in the 1996 NBA Draft, Bryant going 13th overall to Charlotte and Nash two picks later to Phoenix. Derek Fisher was also in that draft, taken by the Lakers with the 24th overall pick. Also, Lakers forward Luke Walton and Suns center Channing Frye were teammates at the University of Arizona for two seasons (2001-02, 2002-03). Suns guard Shannon Brown joined the Lakers midway through the 2008-09 season and was a member of the 2009 and 2010 Lakers championship teams. Over 182 games, Brown averaged 7.9 points (.346 3FG) and 2.0 rebounds in 18.7 minutes while competing in the 2010 Sprite Slam Dunk Contest during All-Star Weekend.
BRYANT NAMED PLAYER OF THE WEEK FOR 29th TIME
Averaging a league-high 33.0 points on 49.5% shooting, 5.5 rebounds and 6.3 assists while helping the Lakers to a 3-1 record, Kobe Bryant earned his FIRST WC Player of the week award this season for games played Monday, Jan. 2 through Sunday, Jan. 8. The award is the 29th of Bryant’s career (27 Western Conference POW, 2 NBA POW), further surpassing Magic Johnson’s 18 NBA POW awards as the franchise’s all-time leader. Johnson, however, earned each of his Player of the Week nods before the award was separated by Conference prior to the 2001-02 season. Bryant’s other WC POW honors came in weeks ending: 11/4/01, 1/20/02, 11/3/02, 12/8/02, 1/12/03, 2/2/03, 2/23/03, 2/17/04, 3/22/04, 11/13/05, 12/18/05, 12/25/05, 1/22/06, 4/16/06, 3/18/07, 3/25/07, 1/13/08, 3/2/08, 4/6/08, 12/28/08, 1/11/09, 3/15/09, 11/22/09, 12/20/09, 12/27/09 and 3/27/11. His two NBA Player of the Week honors came in weeks ending 4/16/00 and 12/24/00. The NBA began the Player of the Week award in 1979-80.
WINNING IN SPITE OF TURNOVERS
In their 90-82 victory over Memphis on January 8, the Lakers turned the ball over 27 times; their highest total since turning it over 27 times in a 96-89 loss to Philadelphia on March 27, 2005 at STAPLES Center. The last time the Lakers had at least 27 turnovers and won came in a 106-102 overtime victory on April 20, 1999 at Golden State (27 turnovers). For the Lakers last regulation victory with at least 27 turnovers, one has to go all the way back to November 3, 1995 when they defeated the Denver Nuggets 98-96 at the Great Western Forum despite turning the ball over 27 times. On the season, the Lakers are now 5-2 when turning it over more than their opponents.
BRYANT A WARRIOR AGAINST GOLDEN STATE
On January 6th, Kobe Bryant scored 39 points as the Lakers defeated the Golden State Warriors 97-90 at STAPLES Center, marking the 14th time that Bryant has scored 35-or-more points in a game against the Warriors, the most such games he has against any opponent in his career. Bryant has scored 35-or-more points against the Phoenix Suns 13 times and has done so 12 times against both Portland and Sacramento.*
In their January 5 loss at Portland, the Lakers struggled to 0-for-11 shooting from behind the three-point arc despite opening the contest connecting on 11 of their first 12 field goals. The zero in the three-point field goals made column marks the first time the Lakers have not made at least one three-point shot since November 16, 2003 vs. Miami when the team combined to go 0-for-9. With 11 attempts and zero made, the Lakers also equaled the franchise record for most three-point field goal attempts without a make, established, ironically, 2/26/83 at Portland (0-11 3FG) and equaled again on 3/9/01 vs. San Antonio (0-11 3FG).
BRYANT NEARING SHAQUILLE O’NEAL FOR 5th ON NBA’S ALL-TIME SCORING LIST
Last season, Kobe Bryant moved past Hall-of-Famers Moses Malone (27,409) 3/8/11 at Atlanta, Elvin Hayes (27,313) 2/27/11 at Oklahoma City, Hakeem Olajuwon (26,946) 1/28/11 vs. Sacramento, Oscar Robertson (26,710) 1/7/11 vs. New Orleans, Dominique Wilkins (26,668) 1/4/11 vs. Detroit and John Havlicek (26,395) 12/10/10 at Chicago on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Next on the all-time list ahead of Bryant (28,144) are Shaquille O’Neal (5th/28,596), Wilt Chamberlain (4th/31,419), Michael Jordan (3rd/32,292), Karl Malone (2nd/36,928) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1st/38,387). Among the top six scorers in NBA history, five have worn the Lakers uniform.
Bryant has been steadily moving up the list over the past few years. In 2009-10, he 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 Gary Payton (21,813) and Hall-of-Famers Charles Barkley (23,757), Robert Parish (23,334), Adrian Dantley (23,177), Elgin Baylor (23,149), Clyde Drexler (22,195) and Larry Bird (21,791).
*Statistical research assistance provided by the Elias Sports Bureau