Bryant is averaging 47.7 points per game over his last three outings, including a 50-point outburst in a 112-109 win Saturday over the Los Angeles Clippers.
His three straight 40-point games represent his longest stretch since he recorded nine straight 40-point games from Feb. 1-Feb. 23, 2003—a run that matched Michael Jordan for the fourth longest 40-point streak in NBA history.
Bryant’s latest performance included 40 points in the second half of Saturday’s game. He fell two points shy of his own franchise record for points in a half, set on March 28, 2003 against the Washington Wizards.
“I saw that they kept switching players on me, and I could sense fear in the first player that was guarding me,” said Bryant, who is averaging a league-leading 33.7 points per game. “Once I started turning it up, they switched and brought another player there, and I wanted to take him to that breaking point, and the next one.
“My thing is, no matter who’s guarding me, I believe that you’re going to crack before I will. I’m just going to keep on pushing at you until you give in.”
In the past, a matchup with Indiana meant that Bryant would be guarded by former NBA Defensive Player of the Year Ron Artest. Bryant has averaged 21.0 points on just under 40 percent shooting in his last three matchups with Artest, has been on the inactive list after requesting to be traded, then rescinding the request.
The Pacers are trying to close a four-game road trip with a third straight win. Indiana placed five players in double figures as they routed Sacramento 108-83 on Sunday.
Stephen Jackson scored 31 points to lead Indiana, which built a 21-point halftime lead and was able to limit the minutes of its key players in preparation for this game.
The Pacers welcomed back leading scorer Jermaine O’Neal, who had missed the three previous games with the flu. He had 12 points and eight rebounds off the bench on Sunday.
“Winning two straight was huge for us, (because) we have been going through a lot,” Jackson said. “That tells a lot about this team. Everybody is handling our situation pretty well. No matter what we’re going through, we have a job to do every day.”
The Pacers have lost all six regular-season matchups against the Lakers at Staples Center, where it went 1-2 against them in the 2000 NBA Finals.
STANDINGS (through Jan. 8): Pacers - 3rd place, 8 GB, Central Division. Lakers - 3rd place (tied), 5 GB, Pacific Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Pacers - O’Neal, 21.9 ppg and 10 rpg; Jamaal Tinsley, 5.4 apg. Lakers - Bryant, 33.7 ppg; Odom, 9.4 rpg and 5.5 apg.
2004-05 SEASON SERIES: 1-1.
LAST MEETING: March 18, 2005; Pacers, 103-97. At Indianapolis, Reggie Miller scored a season-high 39 points and Jackson added 19 as Indiana won without O’Neal, out with a sprained right shoulder.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Pacers - 8-9 on the road; Lakers - 7-8 at home.