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Kobe Bryant returns to Madison Square Garden two years after record-setting performance

Once Kobe Bryant steps onto the court at Madison Square Garden on Friday against the New York Knicks, it will mark the second return since etching his name into the arena record books in a performance that left the crowd both frustrated and amazed.

Bryant scored an arena-record 61 points on 19-of-31 shooting and converted a franchise record for free throws made without a miss (20) in the Lakers' 126-117 victory over the Knicks, providing a temporary distraction regarding the news that Andrew Bynum would sit out eight to 12 weeks because of a torn medial collateral ligament in his right knee, another endless example of Bryant's immense scoring talent and further angst for longtime Knicks fan and film director Spike Lee.

"I think it's a combination of things -- [Bynum] going down, this kind of being a 'hump' game for us on this road trip, I felt like I needed to focus even more so than usual," Bryant told reporters, including The Times' Mike Bresnahan. "On a lighter note, I've got to go review this documentary I'm doing with Spike Lee after the game, and I didn't feel like sitting next to him and hearing him talk trash about the Knicks. That was added incentive as well, seriously."

Bryant is referring to Lee's project, "Kobe Doin Work," which detailed Bryant's approach to the game, his attention to detail and Bryant's own thoughts about what he sees on the floor. Kobe was certainly doing work against the Knicks. He didn't slow his scoring streak, as indicated by his 18 first-quarter points, 16 in the second, 12 in the third and 15 in the fourth. After Bryant scored on a twisting 12-footer with 3:24 left in the game, Bresnahan observed that even Lee couldn't help but crouch over in amazement. In turn, Bryant received a standing ovation and received endless "M-V-P" chants when he took a seat with 1:48 to play.

So what does this mean this time around? Well, the Knicks are obviously a much different team, with their major off-season acquisition of Amare Stoudemire, among other things, jump-starting them into a legitimate Eastern Conference team. But Bryant enters Friday's contest a day removed from the Lakers' 92-86 victory Thursday over the Boston Celtics where he spurred a second-half comeback by scoring 20 of his 23 points in the second half. Much like the performance at MSG, Bryant showcased vintage clutchness at TD Garden, including turnaround jumpers, drives to the basket and his competitive glare after each shot.

Don't mistake this for a one-man show, however. The Lakers also featured plenty of frontline depth, with Bynum, Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom each dropping double figures. In similar fashion, Gasol had 31 points and 14 rebounds two years ago in New York, a near afterthought considering Bryant's record-setting performance. So even if the circumstances surrounding Friday night's game will be different, Bryant has shown that several things remain the same.

"This place is special because the fans will boo you the whole game but they appreciate the game," said Bryant to reporters after marking the fifth time he's dropped at least 40 points at MSG. "Tonight it felt great to get that reaction from these fans because it's just them saying, 'We love what you do.' "

--Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]


Comments () | Archives (20)

The comments to this entry are closed.

@DKWSFO... Thanks for your comments. It’s a real pleasure to see you back posting on the blog. You have always had smart observations and incisive insights into what’s going on with our Lakers. I too was hopeful this group could put together a memorable record setting season like the Bulls. Unfortunately, I think there were too many factors for them to overcome, including Drew’s delayed start, the funk Pau went through, the injury to Barnes, and the struggles of Fish, Artest, and Blake.
On the other hand, I do think the Lakers are starting to find their true identity. Games like last night are clear signs of progress and should harden the resolve and confidence of all Lakers fans. First of all, Kobe is right now playing as intelligently and as team-oriented as I have ever seen him. I love that last night he attacked by driving into the paint rather than just settling for jump shots. Second, I thought all three of the Lakers front court trio outplayed their respective counterparts on the Celtics. To do that in a road game was most impressive to me as was coming from down 15.
I do agree with you that we could use a dead-eye outside shooter and a fourth banger who could help if any of our Big Three front court players get injured or have foul difficulties would be great. I really love Matt Barnes and look forward to his return in March. As a former all-state football wide receiver, Matt understands playing without the ball better than anybody on the Lakers. His constant movement and cutting without the ball has been sorely missed on offense. As for Fish and Artest, I expect them to be fine once we get into the playoffs, where they will thrive again.
The one interesting trade rumor that keeps coming up is the possibility of getting Stephen Jackson in a trade with the Bobcats. I think Captain Jack would be the only player who could provide us with much of what we get from Ron as well as what we got from Trevor. Unfortunately, that would mean trading Ron Artest, which I am not yet ready to do. I do love Stephen Jackson though. At any rate, I think we stand pat and trust in Phil to get this team peaking at the right time.


You trust DKSWF0!

Man pay attention to his words. He called us old and slow and weak on defense,
while at the same time praised the Celticoes for their toughness and size.

MAn-DKSWF0 is a !@#$%% Troll, don't fall for his Bullsh!!!!

LT: Is it cool to just say "ditto"?

Go Lake Show!

The Mamba drops 40 tonight,

in a WIN,


Very intriuguing matchup between Amare Stoudmire and Andrew Bynum tonight. I'd like to see Bynum dominate Amare.

LakerPeace - you mean "again". You'd like to see Bynum dominate Amare "again". Like he did at Staples. Remember? :)

Game day baby!!

What's up guys- Just letting everyone know I got my certificate in Level C- CPR & First Aid Training- one step at a time.

@MR LAKER... Yes, I do trust DKWSFO. While we don’t agree 100% on everything, I have exchanged many posts with him in the past and he definitely knows his basketball. He is a former player, coach, and referee who always has had intelligent and pertinent comments to make. If he has something to say, count me among those bloggers who will eagerly listen and learn.
Yes, he does point out that there are times when the Lakers players have just not come to play but I think we all have seen that from time to time. It’s what you come to expect from a team that is two-time defending champs and has played almost another entire season in the last 3 playoffs. Human nature dictates that sometimes champs get complacent. It’s nothing new or shocking.
Yes, he does say that he thinks the Celtics bring it almost every night and I tend to agree with him. As I explained, I think the Lakers have had more distractions and issues to resolve which has slowed their reaching their potential. Also, I think the Celtics realize that they need home court advantage if they are going to topple the Lakers and that has been a huge motivator for them. It’s not unusual for the loser of a great playoff series to come out hungrier than the defending champ.
As for the Lakers becoming a slow team, that is another criticism that is very accurate. With two 7-footers, an aging point guard in Fish and a struggling small forward in Ron, what else could we be? Of course, the other side of the coin is that we have dominating size, proven veteran defenders, and playoff clutch shooters – and we are the two-time defending champions.
Every team has strengths and weaknesses. How successful a team is depends on how well they maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. If the Lakers run their offense and take care of the ball, their Achilles heels of older age and lack of speed can be offset like last year.

@OUTLAW... Yes, ditto works perfectly well. Thanks.
@JAMF... Justa, ditto from me on the AGAIN in response to LakerPeace.
@SEAN... Congrats on earning your certificate. Ironically, I’ve been thinking due to our age it would be a smarty move for my wife and I to get some CPR training.

LakerPeace - you mean "again". You'd like to see Bynum dominate Amare "again". Like he did at Staples. Remember? :)

Game day baby!!

Posted by: justanothermambafan | February 11, 2011 at 04:11 PM


@LAKERTOM- Thanks LAKERTOM. You never know when you might need it and thanks to the Good Samiritan law and implied consent, it's no longer an issue of should you help but rather will you help.

@DKWSFO.... As I said, always good to hear from you. I don’t know if I could handle another round with Kwame but he would be a better fit than the backup bigs we currently have and I do love Jackson, who could play some point guard. But like you, I still think Ron will be invaluable. As for Shannon, we pretty much agree. The one bright side that does give me hope that Shannon has really become a better shooter is his free throw shooting. I always use free throw percentage as a gauge of how good a shooter a player really is. As a career 80% free throw shooter, Shannon is shooting almost 90% this year and leads the Lakers in free throw percentage. Steve Blake is also shooting close to 90% from the line, which gives me hope that he will start shooting better too.

NBA4ever – I strongly disagree with your sentiments about DWill.
Posted by: LRob | February 11, 2011 at 10:59 AM

Why? To have a legend that was as consistent as he was and accomplish what he has accomplished and have 99% of the team love him and 99% of past players praise him be forced out by one disgruntled player who has accomplished what in his young career? I have to question that player and not the coach. It is a sad day for the association not because we lost Sloan, but more importantly we lost the respect of the coach. So it’s Sloan and not Dwill? From what I read, yea I lost some respect for him.
Posted by: NBA4ever | February 11, 2011 at 02:42 PM

Just because DWill had disagreements with Sloan doesn’t make him that bad guy. The reasons I haven’t lost respect for him is because he always works hard and compete every single night he takes the court. And not only does he compete but he delivers more often than not in pressure situations. I live in Big Ten country and I’ve been watching him closely since he was at Illinois. He has always been a tough competitor.

Again I can only go by what I see. I’m not privy to what happening behind closed doors.

Here are my thoughts on him not running the play his coach called. I work in sales. I’ve been both a manager and a salesperson. As a salesperson I have to use by best judgment on what I think will close the deal. I would hope my manager supporter me. As a manager I would want my salesperson to be flexible enough to use his own judgment. Of course, the amount of flexibility they were given was based on their experience and level of expertise.

So, no I haven’t lost any respect for DWill or coach Sloan. Like Jerry Sloan said, It was his time to move on. He also said he doesn’t have the energy to do this anymore. He had similar disagreements with Karl Malone, yet he never resigned. Perhaps as a younger man he had the necessary energy it takes.

From where I sit Jerry Sloan is a fierce competitor and DWill is also a tough competitor.

sean - CONGRATS!!!!

And yes, I'm serious.

@DKWSFO... I agree 100% with your observations about Kobe and said so today in an earlier post. As for Rondo, I’ve never thought he was as great as everybody else feels. Last night, he was as huge liability for the Celtics, especially down the stretch since he can’t shoot free throws either. Unless the guy learns to shoot, he will never be a superstar or top-5 point guard in my mind.

@Justa – Get well soon!

@LT – FYI…I did see that Jerry West echoed your opinion about the Laker defense.

@sean – Not a big soccer fan, but I understand your analogy.

What's up guys- Just letting everyone know I got my certificate in Level C- CPR & First Aid Training- one step at a time.

Posted by: sean | February 11, 2011 at 04:12 PM
Got mine last month; I was "drafted" by HR to be part of the rescue team.

Let's go LAKERS! "Tonights the night, whooo oooh."

Got mine last month; I was "drafted" by HR to be part of the rescue team.

Posted by: Magic Phil | February 11, 2011 at 04:49 PM

Wonderful, to hear, Magic Phil!!!



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