61

So, how’d he do it?

How did Kobe Bryant become the only player to ever score 61 points in Madison Square Garden?

We’ve gone over his motivation in the postgame article* from L.A.’s 126-117 win and posted reactions from* Trevor Ariza, Luke Walton and Kobe himself*.
*In case you missed it, those underlines are all links to the videos and articles, so simply click on the word to read or watch.

But to keep throwing fuel on the Mamba fire, we spent a few minutes with Lakers assistant coach Jim Cleamons** to see what his great basketball mind was thinking about during Kobe’s offensive barrage.
**Same story

Just in case you need more from Kobe’s 61, what follows is every pertinent Kobe entry from the running diary of the game, so that you can trace a relative play-by-play in narrative form:

Kobe Bryant Dunk in MSGFirst Quarter
10:41 After canning a deep jumper, Bryant pulled up for a deep three to make it 6-2 Lakers.

9:52 Kobe again with a deep jumper. Swish. In related news, Kobe likes to play in New York.

6:35 After a driving layup off Pau’s feed and an open jumper, Bryant had 13 points in 5:30 of play. The Knicks then missed another jumper (5-of-16, 31 percent from the field) and Gasol capitalized on a nice Odom pass to put L.A. up 18-11. Meanwhile, for better or worse, New York’s PA announcer is easily the most informative of any I’ve heard around the league this year.

2:24 BIG MVP chant for Kobe as he made two more free throws to get to 15 points. That’s probably the loudest road arena Kobe chant this year.

0:48.1 Wilson Chandler dropped a three on Kobe … Which didn’t sit well with Mamba, so he decided to put one on the Knicks 10 seconds later for a five-point lead.

Second Quarter
7:30 Two-straight turnovers from Radmanovic turned into four Knicks points, cutting L.A.’s lead to one. The first came as he dribbled off his foot, the second after a bad pass intended for Ariza. Vladi thought he was being pulled when Kobe checked in, but it was Farmar who sat, leaving Vujacic to guard Duhon. Bryant immediately took advantage of the space afforded him by a drive-wary Chandler and pulled up for his third triple. Well, it didn’t take Bryant long to get going again, huh?

6:27 It seems to be ones of those (Mamba) nights for Kobe, who first crossed Chandler over on the perimeter, rose and buried another jumper. Then he pulled up again on the next possession from deep (swish) before rising up in transition to throw down a dunk.
“MVP … MVP … MVP” chants wore on for about two minutes after the Knicks called timeout with 5:44 to play. Kobe was 10-of-14 from the field for 27 points in about 14 minutes to give L.A. a 49-42 lead. If you’re the Lakers, you’re probably cool with Kobe taking a few more heat-check jumpers, but it should be time to go back in the paint to Pau shortly.

4:21 After a great feed from Kobe to Odom for a slam, Gasol returned for Powell. When Kobe scored again on a Michael Jordan double-pump fake jumper to get to 29 points, he and Pau had combined for 43 of L.A.’s 53 points.

1:56 Bryant’s transition dunk set off a quick 5-0 Lakers run, capped by 1-of-2 (again) Odom free throws that made it 62-47. In the middle of those two plays was a nice swat of a Robinson three by Walton, plus Luke’s pull-up jumper.

0:42.2 MVP chant, again, for an all-business Kobe after a driving and-1 that gave him 34 points. The combination of latent anger over Bynum’s injury and the NYC spotlight lesson the surprise about Bryant’s burst, but still… decent stuff. His final line was 13-of-20 from the field and 5-of-5 from the line plus two assists. Harrington did answer with a three to make it a 65-54 Lakers lead at the break. Kobe almost made us forget that Andrew Bynum’s out for 8-to-12 weeks with his barrage.

Kobe BryantThird Quarter
9:20 Kobe swatted a potential game-tying layup attempt from Richardson, and Walton scored in the lane at the other end to make it 69-65. Bynum’s presence in the lane (or lack there of) is certainly missed by the Lakers, who needed their shooting guard to clean up the paint. By the way, New York’s “center” Jeffries is guarding Kobe.

7:07 Kobe’s second tough, fade-away jumper in a minute put L.A.’s lead at 75-67, as he and Gasol had combined for 56 points. But Lee and Harrington then scored easily at L.A.’s unprotected rim. That’s 40 points for Kobe.

5:11 Kobe’s 42nd point came on a kind of ridiculous running shot that mirrored his left-to-right action late in Memphis. That’s his new season high, as he had 41 in Orlando.

3:36 As soon as Kobe finally missed back-to-back jumpers, the Knicks capitalized to get within six at 84-78. But out of a timeout, Bryant drew a foul on Duhon from the perimeter, and sunk both as L.A. was in the bonus.

Fourth Quarter
7:30 Think the bench cooled Kobe off? Nope. Jumper, 46 points, 14-point lead.

6:06 And we’re at 50. Bryant hit two free throws courtesy of Josh Powell’s second offensive board in a minute.

5:50 Ouch. Peezy went down haaaard on his head and back after trying to block a Robinson runner … But obviously he got right up. He might star in the new G.I. Joe’s movie. Into a timeout out of which Kobe was set to go to the foul line, L.A. held a 112-98 lead. He made both, then stuck two more a minute later to go 15-for-15 from the charity stripe. We’re at 54 and counting with 5:12 remaining.

3:23 59. The latest came on an up-and-under spin around Chandler. It’s almost unfair, but even the Knicks fans are loving it.

2:45 N.Y. had hit back-to-back threes, the second of which Ariza countered with a three of his own. Then came an Odom steal and dish to Kobe in the frontcourt, which put Bryant back at the line. He can miss one and get to 60.

Nah, made ‘em both. He’s 19-of-31 from the field and 20-of-20 from the foul line, and the Lakers led 126-106.

1:48 Wow. When’s the last time an opposing player left the floor of a regular season game to a standing ovation from the home crowd as chants of “MVP” rang loudly through the arena? That’s what just happened for Kobe.