Postgame | Flip Saunders
Bryant Makes History, Helps Take Down Wolves
Kobe Bryant has hit his fair share of clutch shots throughout his illustrious career. So on a night where he made history as he passed Michael Jordan on the NBA’s all-time scoring chart, it was only fitting that Bryant drilled a cold-blooded shot to lead the Lakers to a 100-94 victory over the Wolves on Sunday night at Target Center.
“We’ve seen that many times,” Flip Saunders said. “We’ve seen Kobe make those kinds of plays [throughout his career].”
Saunders called the game “a learning experience” for his team. It was also a chance for some of the younger players to see one of the greatest players in NBA history in his element.
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Andrew Wiggins had just knocked down a pair of free throws to tie the game at 94-94 and as the Lakers set up on the other end everyone in Target Center knew the shot was Bryant’s to take — except it wasn’t. Nick Young was the first option, it seemed, then Jordan Hill. Wesley Johnson also touched the ball somewhere in the sequence until Bryant finally ended up with the ball in his hands with the shot clock winding down. Bryant took control, rose up from well beyond the three-point line, and as the shot clock ticked away drilled a clutch shot to put Los Angeles in front 97-94 with a minute to play — Bryant truly at his finest.
“That’s Kobe,” Andrew Wiggins said after the game. “He’s going to make big shots. That’s what he does. He’s one of the best finishers ever.”
An hour or so before that clutch shot, though, was the reason everyone cared so much about this game. Bryant made history as he calmly stepped to the charity stripe with 5:24 left in the second quarter and nailed a pair of free throws to move past Jordan on the charts. A brief stoppage after the free throws allowed Bryant to be honored on the court for his accomplishment. Bryant shook up with players and Wolves owner Glen Taylor even presented Bryant with the game ball before the game resumed.
This was uncharted territory for Bryant — and not just in terms of the achievement.
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“I’m so used to being the villain all the time on the road that it took me a minute to adjust,” Bryant said. “It felt good to be appreciated like that. … I’m used to being the villain so to have moments like that … I was like, ‘This actually feels pretty damn good.’”
Bryant finished with 26 points in the game, none more important than that three-pointer to put his team in front.
Carlos Boozer added a key 22 points and 13 rebounds off the bench to help the Lakers build a lead. Shabazz Muhammad, on the other end of the court, also had a good night coming off the bench for the Wolves and probably would have been the story on any other night. Muhammad finished with a game-high 28 points as he continued to build off of his recent success.
“When he goes in the game I think everyone knows … that when he gets it he’s probably going to look to score,” Saunders said. “They’re really trying to guard him now … and he still finds ways to create opportunities for himself. That’s a positive.”
This game, however, belonged to Bryant. His fiery competitive nature took a backseat for about 10 minutes after the game as he talked to reporters. He was candid with all of his answers, yet extremely thoughtful in his responses. Bryant added that it was weird going up against a player like Wiggins — a wide-eyed 19-year-old that he can undoubtedly relate to.
“It was a strange feeling because I remember being Andrew Wiggins,” Bryant said. “I remember playing against Michael [Jordan] my first year. And to be here tonight playing against [Wiggins], seeing the baby face and the little footwork or technique thing that he’s going to be much, much sharper at later on, was like looking at a reflection of myself 19 years ago.”
Wiggins also took a step back after the game, and said while he knows the team needs to move forward and focus on the games it has this week, he was happy to be a part of history, even if he was on the wrong side of it.
“I witness greatness tonight,” Wiggins said. “I’m glad I was a part of it.”
LEADER OF THE PACK
Shabazz Muhammad had a game-high 28 points in the loss. He was all over the floor as he has been for much of the last few weeks and sparked a run in the second half that made things really interesting down the stretch. Muhammad was 12-for-21 from the floor and used his patented left-handed push shot to score most of his points.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE GAME
A modest Target Center crowd witnessed history on Sunday night as Kobe Bean Bryant moved past the great Michael Jordan into sole possession of third place on the NBA’s all-time scoring charts. Bryant surpassed Jordan as he coolly knocked down a pair of free throws with 5:24 left in the second quarter. A whistle stopped the game momentarily after that as Bryant was honored with a brief ceremony on the floor. Wolves owner Glen Taylor presented Bryant with the game ball during that stoppage time, then it was back to the game. Bryant finished his historic night with xx points.
-- It took him a quarter and a half. Kobe Bryant calmly stepped to the free throw line with 5:24 left in the second quarter and sank a pair of free throws to move past Michael Jordan into third place on the NBA’s all-time scoring charts. Bryant finished the night with xx points and now has xx,xxx points for his career.
-- Andrew Wiggins led all scorers with six points after the first 12 minutes of play. He got off to an extremely fast start and looked poised for a big night before two quick fouls forced him to take a seat.
-- As good of a game as Andrew Wiggins was having early on — he had 10 points in 11 minutes — foul trouble plagued him all night long. Wiggins picked him his third personal foul of the contest with more than seven minutes left in the second quarter and that forced hi to sit for the rest of the half.
-- Shabazz Muhammad continued his recent success and finished with 28 points off the bench. He led all scorers and Minnesota finished with 41 points from its reserves.
Minnesota will practice Monday afternoon before they hop on a plane en route to Washington. It will take on the Wizards on Tuesday night at the Verizon Center in a game that’s sure to test the young Wolves squad.