Kobe Bryant has been scoring at one of the most feverish paces in NBA history. Now, he’ll square off against one of the few players that might be able to keep up with him offensively.
Bryant scored 41 points in the Lakers’ 113-103 loss Wednesday to the Portland Trail Blazers, ending his string of games with at least 45 points at four. Bryant was the first player since Wilt Chamberlain in 1964 to string together that many 45-point performances.
Chamberlain, who scored 45 in nine straight games, is the only player with more than four straight. Elgin Baylor also reached the milestone in December, 1961.
“Kobe was waiting for his game to get hot and it never happened, and we tried to force the ball into him and it cost us,” coach Phil Jackson said.
Bryant, who also had a nine-game streak of 40-point games from Feb. 6-23, 2003, now has 11 40-point games this season and 51 for his career for the Lakers. Among active players with 40-plus point games, Bryant trails only Allen Iverson, who has 67.
Bryant, who has two 50-point games this season and seven in his career, leads the league in scoring at 34.3 points per game. Iverson, who scored 46 points Wednesday against Utah, ranks second with 33.7 points.
James is third with 30.8 points per game. He had 36 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in the Cavaliers’ 92-84 loss to the New York Knicks on Tuesday.
James became the first NBA player since Oscar Robertson in 1966 to record at least 30 points, seven rebounds and five assists in seven straight games. His seven straight 30-point games streak is the longest in the league since Tracy McGrady had 14 in a row in 2003.
“That kid is playing great,” said New York coach Larry Brown, who coached James on the 2004 U.S. Olympic team. “I don’t know how you can guard him. He’s getting better and better and better.”
However, James didn’t get much help from his teammates. The Cavs, who scored just 12 fourth-quarter points, got just 27 points from their other four starters, shot more 3-pointers (28) than free throws (20) and were booed by their home fans.
“I don’t think we were ready to play from the opening tip,” said James, who has averaged 25.3 points in four career games against the Lakers. “Once you get to the point where every game means the same, where every game you play for 48 minutes, then you become a great team. Right now, we are not.”
Guard Damon Jones went 1-for-5 on 3-pointers, and is just 6-for-37 from the arc in his last seven games.
“I’m officially in a slump,” Jones said.
The Cavaliers, who have won nine of their last 12, are opening a six-game road trip.
Center Zendon Hamilton signed a 10-day contract with the Cavs on Tuesday, less than one week after they waived him.