Kobe Bryant's record breaking night soured with Lakers' loss to Memphis
The simple pass led to a simple, yet, record-breaking dunk.
Lakers guards Jordan Farmar and Kobe Bryant were on an uncontested break in the third quarter, with Farmar dishing to Bryant for what would be his 25,193rd career point, surpassing former Lakers great and general manager Jerry West as the Lakers' all-time leading scorer. Bryant's record-breaking score provided little theatrics at the 4:37 mark, likely because he didn't want to further hurt his seven-week-long avulsion fracture to his right index finger. The dunk also appeared simple in true form with an easy uncontested basket. Fitting perhaps since many Bryant scored many of his points with the same fluidity against tight defenses.
If only the rest of the game were that easy for the Lakers. Instead, they concluded an eight-game trip with a 95-93 loss Monday to the Memphis Grizzlies, preventing Coach Phil Jackson from surpassing Pat Riley as the Lakers' winningest coach in regular-season games (533).
The Lakers (37-12) may have been returning to Los Angeles in a better mood had they converted in the final seconds. After Grizzlies guard Mike Conley missed two frees throw with 21.7 seconds remaining, Lakers forward Ron Artest grabbed the rebound. But Lakers Coach Phil Jackson opted not to call timeout. As Bryant brought the ball up the court, Lakers forward Pau Gasol ran a screen and roll at the top of the key, O.J. Mayo and Marc Gasol effectively switched and Bryant had nothing open with three seconds remaining. He passed to Artest in the near corner for a three-point attempt, but the shot went off the rim as time expired.
Bryant wouldn't provide a game winner like he did in Boston Sunday, which would've added even more intrigue to Bryant's milestone evening. He tied his season-high of 44 points (which was also West's number) in a game that surely highlighted Mamba's well-known dichotomy. Bryant ended the first half with 23 points came on 7 of 14 shooting, but Jackson told his team at halftime part of the reason why it trailed 52-50 halftime was because of its large dependency on Bryant, who scored the quarter's final 13 points.
His scoring tendencies often fall into the chicken-and-the egg argument - was Bryant being selfish because his teammates were being passive, or were they being passive because Bryant was being selfish? That's always up for debate. But the numbers weren't debatable at all. The Lakers committed nine first-half turnovers, Bryant took 14 of the team's 25 shots and center Andrew Bynum only had one field goal attempt.
The Lakers didn't start the second half much better. They remained scoreless until Bryant's layup with 7:58 remaining cut Memphis' lead to 58-52. Interestingly, Bryant surpassed West's scoring record just as the Lakers made their run. His record-breaking dunk at the 4:37 mark was part of an 18-6 run that brought the Lakers a 71-70 lead after three quarters.
The game remained close up through the final quarter, with the score tied 88-88. But Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph, who had 22 points, beat the 24-second clock for a 90-88 lead with 1:08 remaining. But the Lakers lacked energy and concentration the rest of the way, qualities that were absent partly because of the emotional high against Boston and fatigue wearing on the Lakers in their final game of a 13-day trip.
That was apparent in the following sequence where Lamar Odom missed a layup, Bryant missed a three pointer and Odom was called for a foul on Randolph. Bryant answered Randolph's two free throws with a trey. He answered Rudy Gay's three with a three of his own to make it 95-93. But he didn't answer on the final play.
Neither did the rest of the team, concluding a 5-3 trip featured lows (two losses in first three games), highs (four consecutive wins) and more lows (winning only one game against a team above .500).
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Photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant finishes off a dunk against Memphis on Monday night that made him the franchise's all-time scoring leader, moving ahead of Jerry West. Bryant finished with 44 points in the loss. Credit: Mike Brown/EPA.