Kobe's 81-point explosion one of many terrific games
Posted: Monday January 23, 2006 4:40PM; Updated: Monday January 23, 2006 6:16PM
Kobe Bryant's 81 points may have grabbed the headlines, but Ray Allen's game-winner was the highlight of the year's best game.
Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images
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Not to say that last week's run of NBA games was staid or boring, but you get the feeling that a brand-new season just started on Sunday night.
Perhaps the most interesting reaction to Kobe Bryant's explosion against the Raptors was the idea put across by both fans and media alike that, somehow, this was expected. Kobe was due to score 81 points because going off for 62 in three quarters in a December win over the Mavericks just wasn't enough. In fact, the strangest aspect of the reaction to Kobe's 62-point performance was the clarion call that insisted Lakers coach Phil Jackson made a mistake in not leaving Kobe in for that game's final quarter. He had a shot at 80 points! Forgetting, of course, that Kobe still had to score 18 more points in that contest to hit 80. That's ... that's not easy, y'know?
But off Kobe went on Sunday night, scoring 26 in the first half , 55 in the second, flailing his way into NBA lore with the second-highest scoring night in the league's history. It was fun stuff to watch because his scoring spree initiated a 35-point turnaround, erasing a 17-point Raptors lead in the Lakers rout. The Raptors didn't have a chance, and the more Kobe managed to do on his side of the court, the more Toronto's own offense disintegrated.
Coach Sam Mitchell's crew was clearly shaken by the fact that the Lakers and their fans regarded Toronto's possessions as an unnecessary bit of downtime between Kobe's theatrics -- a reminder that mere mortals did exist, and not to just to serve Kobe the ball, but to try and stop what we've now learned was the inevitable.
So today you'll read quite a bit about Kobe's legendary night, with some lauding his play, some asking for more, alongside a whole ton of people that will take great pleasure in pointing out the two measly assists he dished out over the course of the night, or the necessity of scoring 81 points in an 18-point win. Par for the course, Kobester. A few other facets of Kobe's remarkable season need to be explained, though. Why wasn't he doing this last year? With Shaquille O'Neal gone, his legal troubles over, and an offensive-minded players coach in Rudy Tomjanovich in place, Kobe would seem to have had everything in place last season for the bit of offensive fun he's having in 2005-06.
Instead, Bryant averaged 27.6 points per game, hitting 43 percent of his 20 shot attempts a contest. Solid stuff, but each and every night seemed like a struggle. This year, however, he's hitting 45 percent of his 27.7 shot attempts on his way to 36 points per game. Where did that come from? Is Smush Parker that good? Was Caron Butler getting in Kobe's way last year? Better shoes? More tattoos? Did he find religion? Are we a week away from learning about Kabbalah Bryant?