Bryant and the Lakers face the Raptors for the first time since his record-setting 81-point performance when the teams meet at Staples Center on Friday.
Bryant had a game for the ages in a 122-104 victory over Toronto on Jan. 22, scoring a remarkable 81 points for the second-highest total in league history behind Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game for Philadelphia on March 2, 1962.
With 26 points by halftime, Bryant poured in 27 in the third quarter and 28 more in the fourth. He finished 28-of-46 from the field, including 7-of-13 from 3-point range, and went 18-for-20 from the foul line.
Only Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, David Robinson, David Thompson and Bryant have ever reached the 70-point mark. Even Michael Jordan never hit 70, scoring a career-best 69 on March 28, 1990.
However, the early part of this season has presented a different challenge for Bryant, who is still working his way back into shape following offseason knee surgery. He recently said he guessed his surgically repaired right knee would be 95 percent sound by Friday.
Bryant was asked whether he had any lingering memories of his last meeting with the Raptors.
“Nah, I don’t think so,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “They’re a completely different team anyway. I’ll just take a win.”
After scoring a season-high 32 points in a loss at Portland on Nov. 8, Bryant has totaled 40 in his last two games. He clearly isn’t at his best yet, averaging only 13.2 shot attempts this season after putting up 27.1 shots in 2005-06.
Bryant scored 21 points and Lamar Odom had 20 points and a season-high 16 rebounds as the Lakers (5-3) avoided a third straight loss with a 91-81 victory over visiting Memphis on Sunday.
“That’s what we need, that 1-2 punch,” Bryant said. “We’ll continue to provide that.”
Odom scored at least 22 points in each of his first three games this season, but averaged 13.2 in his next four contests before Sunday’s performance.
Asked if it was his best game so far, Odom replied: “If you’re stat watching, maybe, but it’s the team effort that counts. We could’ve played better in the second half, but we gave ourselves enough of a cushion to sustain a victory.”
Despite a franchise-record 41-point second quarter, the Raptors (2-5) dropped their third straight, 110-99 at Golden State on Tuesday.
Chris Bosh had 23 points and matched his career high with 22 rebounds, but Toronto went 5 1/2 minutes without a field goal down the stretch and shot 13-of-43 in the second half.
“We gave effort in about 40 out of the 48 minutes,” Bosh said. “We had them on the ropes. We missed some shots, but we just have to stay tight on defense. I think we gave them second-chance points down the stretch, and they made us pay in the end.”
While Bosh has continued to play like an All-Star, his teammates haven’t given him much support. Last season, Toronto had Mike James and Morris Peterson as dependable outside shooters, but James is now in Minnesota and Peterson is shooting 39.3 percent (33-for-84) from the field.
“You worry every time you lose a basketball game,” Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said. “The disheartening thing is we’re getting open looks. You have to step up and make shots.”
The Lakers have won four straight at home against the Raptors and eight of the last nine overall. Los Angeles is 16-4 all-time in the series.