Eighty-One! Bryant Erupts as Lakers Roll
L.A. Lakers 122, Toronto 104
LOS ANGELES, Jan. 22 (Ticker) -- Often compared to Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant entered the rarefied realm of Wilt Chamberlain.
Bryant scored a mind-boggling 81 points - the second-highest total in NBA history - as the Los Angeles Lakers posted a 122-104 victory over the Toronto Raptors.
It was the NBA's greatest individual offensive performance aside from Chamberlain's landmark 100-point game against the New York Knicks on March 2, 1962. That figure once was considered unapproachable, but Bryant is raising the possibility.
"Not even in my dreams. This was something that just happened," he said. "It is tough to explain. It is just one of those things."
"I've seen some remarkable games but I've never seen anything like that before," added Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who played against Chamberlain and coached Jordan. "It's just a personal challenge for him to attack the whole team. It was not exactly the way you want to win a game, but when you have to win a game, it's great to have that weapon to be able to do it. We rode the hot the hand."
After scoring 26 points in the first half, Bryant exploded for 55 after the break - four shy of Chamberlain's record for points in a half. He outscored the Raptors by 14 points after halftime.
A defensive specialist as a player and assistant, Toronto coach Sam Mitchell attacked Bryant with various sets but failed to find an answer. "The tough thing about it was that he hit tough shots," Mitchell said. "If you look at the third quarter, I thought our guys were there. We had two guys on him at times. We doubled him, and he would split them. We tried playing zone, and he just shot that ball from the hashmark. We played box-and-1. I haven't played that since my college days."
Bryant made 28-of-46 shots - including 7-of-13 3-pointers - and 18-of-20 free throws. He shattered his previous career high of 62 points set vs. Dallas in just three quarters on December 20. "I was just determined," Bryant said. "(I was) just locked in, tuned in to what was going on out there and (blocked) everything out. I zeroed in on being more aggressive and setting the tempo. This was very similar to the Dallas game as far as my mentality."
With just under five minutes remaining and the Lakers leading, 108-96, Bryant knocked down a 3-pointer to join Chamberlain, former Laker Elgin Baylor, David Thompson and David Robinson in the 70-point club - a threshold Jordan never reached.
"Through my career I've been compared to him so many times, and I just wish it would stop," Bryant said. "He's Michael Jordan and I'm Kobe Bryant; we're two different players. I just wish people would let it go because it really annoys me.
"You can't compare what I'm doing to what he's done. He's probably one of the greatest if not the greatest player of all time; there's no comparison. I really wish people would stop measuring up what I do to in comparison to what he's done."
It's not fair for us, the younger generation to be constantly compared to such greatness - from myself to LeBron James to other young players. You're talking about Magic Johnson, you're talking about Michael Jordan, we can't measure up to them." On the ensuing possession, Bryant drilled a short jumper to break Baylor's club record of 71 points against the Knicks on November 15, 1960.
"I was at the game when Elgin got 71, so I've been at both games that set the Lakers franchise record," said Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, now a Lakers assistant. "Elgin did it without the 3-point line. His game was attacking the hoop and hitting jumpers within 20 feet. Kobe's range is unreal and he does it his way."
After making a layup with 3:26 remaining to reach 74 points, Bryant scored his last seven from the free-throw line. He sank a pair of free throws with 43 seconds left to complete his magical performance and exited to a huge ovation with 4.2 seconds to go.
"He played great tonight," said Raptors guard Morris Peterson, who guarded Bryant most of the game. "I never seen anything like that. Take nothing away from that performance tonight. He showed why he's one of the premier players of this league. Once a guy like him gets going, gets into a rhythm, it's going to be a long night. It was a long night for us tonight. You really can't say much."
Peterson said he wasn't bothered by the fact that Bryant shot even though the game was decided in the final minutes. "I know if I was that hot, I'd keep shooting," Peterson said. "It wasn't disrespectful to me. I wasn't thinking about (it). I was just trying to win the game."
Jackson claimed he was unaware of Bryant's total until late in the fourth quarter, when assistant Frank Hamblen notified him. "I wasn't keeping track on what he had and I turned (to Hamblen) and said, 'I think I better take him out now,'" Jackson said. "It was a time I felt the game was sealed, but (Hamblen) said, 'I don't think you can, he has 77 points.' So we stayed with it until he hit 80."
Smush Parker added 13 points and Lamar Odom added 10 rebounds and seven assists for the Lakers, who have won seven of their last 10.
"When we were down at halftime, (Bryant) was ticked," Odom said. "He said nothing and that was scary." Mike James scored 26 points for Toronto, who led by as many as 18 points in the third quarter.