Bryant Leads L.A. Past N.O.

blog_091108kobebryant_headerWatch Highlights, Get Stats & Read Quotes over at the LAKERS GAMEDAY PAGE.

We used the title “No Gasol, No Bynum, No Problem!” when L.A. dusted Memphis on Friday evening, crediting L.A.’s impressive by-committee approach in a solid team effort.

Of course, Kobe Bryant’s 41 points didn’t hurt the cause. He’s pretty good.

Bryant’s scoring came so easily, we nearly forgot that he also dropped 41 points in two of the three Lakers wins prior to Friday, against Atlanta at home and then in Houston three nights later.

So while adorned in his Sunday white uniform against New Orleans, it wasn’t exactly a surprise to see Bryant filling up the twine yet again for 26 points in the first half on 10-of-16 shooting, helping his squad to a 55-42 lead at halftime. He was scoring so readily that one wondered why New Orleans wasn’t sending a double-team his way … And sure enough, that’s what Byron Scott would do in the third quarter, turning Bryant into a ball mover as his teammates took over in the second half.

“We had a little easier time tonight than I had anticipated,” said Phil Jackson. “A lot of it due … Kobe’s 26 point first half, they really came out to double to take the ball out of his hands and we were able to get some three-point shots and make them.”

58866893The Lakers canned eight of their 12 threes in that second half, while Ron Artest and Lamar Odom combined for 17 rebounds, 13 assists and 12 points in 30 minutes of burn each. Shannon Brown and Luke Walton pitched in 26 total points, all but five of which came in the latter half as the Hornets struggled to find an answer.

“This was a game that we believed was going to be a really tough game,” said Bryant. “I think because of that, everybody’s antennae were up, everyone was extremely focused and ready to go.”

No one more than himself.

Sure, Bryant didn’t hit the 40-point mark for the fourth time in five nights (a surprise despite only 12 second half minutes), but his initial burst was more than enough. D.J. Mbenga was so enamored with Bryant’s play that the center said he almost wished he were on the bench, as he might be with a healthy team, so he could just sit there and watch Bryant. Instead, Mbenga put up his first career double-double, a 10-point, 12-rebound effort capped off with four blocks … Even if he had to focus more on protecting the paint than marveling at Kobe.

“Well nothing surprises me anymore,” said Phil Jackson. “So I’m honestly not surprised at all … (Bryant is) the kind of guy [where] it doesn’t matter if things are going well like that. He’s going to want the ball and make them have to come double team him, make them play him in a way … He’s been doing a good job.”

Though Bryant is as much a stranger to scoring binges as peanut butter is to jelly, last season he didn’t score 40 points until Dec. 20 at Orlando (41), and only did it four times for the entire regular campaign*. After seven games this season, he’s just a game away from matching that pace.
*Other three times: 40 at Utah on Jan. 2; 61 at New York on Feb.; 49 at Phoenix on March 1.

One simple explanation for Bryant’s burst of points (other than the fact that he’s the world’s best player) is the convergence of two things: he spent much of his offseason working on his post game, and the block is wide open for his use with Bynum and Gasol in street clothes.

58867046After the game, Bryant was asked how much of his offseason workouts focused on his low post game.

“More than usual,” he said. “I always concentrate on it, but more than usual.”

Not a shocker. By the way, ceding the block to either seven-footer when they return isn’t exactly the plan.

“They know I eat first,” said the Finals MVP. In other words, this isn’t just a temporary experiment.

Case in point: in the second quarter, Bryant so easily laid in and banked home respective shots on post ups of New Orleans shooting guard Devin Brown that Brown just sort of stopped and looked around, his face resembling the female lead of “Paranormal Activity” after the door of her bedroom door closed randomly in the middle of the night.

Brown wasn’t sure how to make it stop, but then again, who is?

1 Year of college basketball played together at UCLA for Jordan Farmar and Hornets back up Darren Collison. Farmar’s five assists helped lead to 46 bench points for L.A.

4 Blocks for D.J. Mbenga, not to mention 12 rebounds to lead L.A. in both categories in relief of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.

5 Free throws attempted by the Hornets in a first half dominated by the Lakers, showing how New Orleans largely settled for jump shots.

12 Three-pointers hit by the Lakers, eight of which came in the second half. Luke Walton and Shannon Brown nailed three apiece.

33.6 Kobe Bryant’s scoring average so far this year, tops in the NBA.

40 Points scored in STAPLES last January by Hornets forward David West in a Hornets’ win; L.A. held him to just 11 on Sunday.

Watch Highlights, Get Stats & Read Quotes over at the LAKERS GAMEDAY PAGE.