As if on a mission to make up for all the Lakers missing parts, Kobe Bryant resorted to what's carried him all these years.
Bryant's team-leading 29 points on 10-of-17 shooting in 34 minutes carried the Lakers to a 103-87 victory Wednesday over the Hornets in New Orleans Arena to snap a two-game losing streak and give the team its second road victory.
Bryant's effort helped the Lakers forget for one game about the absences to Steve Nash (fractured left leg), Pau Gasol (tendinitis in both knees) and Steve Blake (surgery to treat a lower abdominal strain). Bryant's four dunks, baseline jumpers and floaters also cemented him further among the NBA's elite.
He rests at 30,016 career points spanning a storied 17-year NBA career that includes five NBA championships, two Finals MVPs, one regular season MVP and four All-Star MVPs. Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387), Karl Malone (36,928), Michael Jordan (32,292) and Wilt Chamberlain (31,419) have scored more baskets in NBA history.
"That means he's old," D'Antoni said, drawing laughs. "Not many people can get that achievement. That's something that's earned."
Once Bryant slashed to the basket with a runner in the lane with 1:16 remaining in the second quarter, the Lakers guard became the youngest player to reach the milestone at 34 years and 105 days old.
"Throughout my career, I never thought about this," Bryant said. "I don't know why I'm still working as hard
as I am after 17 years. I enjoy what I do.
"That's the thing I'm most proud of, that every year and every day I'm working hard at it."
When the Hornets' public announcer brought up Bryant's record before the second half began, the fans at New Orleans Arena gave Bryant a loud round of applause. Bryant then held up his right hand to express appreciation. Interestingly, the milestone came against the team that drafted him in 1996 (Charlotte Hornets) before trading away his rights to the Lakers for Vlade Divac.
"Sports always seems to have that connectivity," Bryant said. "It always seems to come full circle."
Still, Lakers forward Metta World Peace jokingly wished Bryant saved his record-breaking play for Friday when the Lakers visit the Oklahoma City Thunder.
"It's a bigger game," said World Peace, whose 11 points eclipsed the 12,000 points mark. "He hits that shot and makes history. Twenty years from now, it will show Kobe scoring 30,000 points and (Kevin) Durant is in the background moving in slow motion.
"You want Kobe to break the record with a Hornet in the background?"
The Lakers can't be choosy these days, with their inconsistent defense, free-throw shooting and playing at the speed required in D'Antoni's offense.
It appeared some of the frustration lingered as Bryant and Dwight Howard exchanged heated words on the court and during timeouts in the first quarter because of defensive breakdowns.
Said Bryant: "That's how I lead. That's how I've found to be successful."
Said Howard: "I don't have a problem with saying anything to anybody, and it should be that way. We have to be able to talk to each other.
"he more chemistry we develop that way, the better we'll be as a team."
But against New Orleans, that became a blip.
Howard, who scored 18 points, didn't fall victim to another "Hack a Dwight." Antawn Jamison (15 points), posted his second consecutive double double while starting at power forward during Gasol's injury. Chris Duhon kept the offense balanced by posting 10 assists in his second consecutive start at point guard. Jordan Hill and Jodie Meeks combined for 18 points off the bench.
The Lakers opened the second half with a 12-0 run.
And then there was Bryant. He tapped into what's carried him his whole career to ensure the Lakers a well-needed win and another milestone.
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