Monday night in New York City was about one thing and one thing only: Mamba.
After Kobe Bryant was finished annihilating the Knicks with a Madison Square Garden record 61 points, he left the floor with 1:48 to go in the fourth and his team up 20 as the New York crowd stood up, chanted “MVP” and high-fived one another in amazement.
When’s the last time that happened on the road, particularly in the regular season?
Maybe when Michael Jordan put up a then-visiting-player high of 55 points in the 1994-95 season just a few games after his return from minor league baseball?
Before we get into the details of Mamba’s ridiculous performance, let’s think about three things motivating Bryant heading into Monday night’s contest against the Knicks:
A) L.A. found out that Andrew Bynum would be out for 8-to-12 weeks, something about which Bryant felt personally as he’d fallen into ‘Drew’s right knee in Memphis.
B) Kobe has always loved playing in MSG, and only gets to show New York fans what he’s about once a year.
C) After the game, Kobe knew he was going to go over Spike Lee’s Kobe documentary with the director and certainly didn’t want to hear from the avid Knicks fan for a whole evening.
And hey, did Bryant ever find away to turn that mental motivation into physical on-court production. The most points in MSG history? Really? He made 19-of-31 shots (61 percent) from the field, 20-of-20 free throws (you do the math) and tossed in three dimes and a block to bury the Knicks.
“When he’s going off like that, you just give him the ball and get out of the way,” said Trevor Ariza. “Amazing.”
Also chalking up impressive nights for the Lakers were Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, the former who’d stepped into the center position for Bynum and the latter who’d slid into Gasol’s power forward slot in the starting lineup. Pau was dominant inside with 31 points, 14 boards, five assists and two blocks while Odom filled up the stat sheet with six points, 14 rebounds, four dimes, a steal and three blocks. Ariza wasn’t bad himself with 13 points – including three huge dunks – and eight boards.
As a team, the Lakers shot 52.4 percent, out-rebounded the Knicks 52-41 and blocked eight shots to only one by the Knicks.
Only one number tonight: