Kobe Bryant believes his four-game streak of 50-point games revitalized the Los Angeles Lakers. Now that the run is over, the Lakers look to avoid a letdown when they host the last-place Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday.
Los Angeles (38-32) is just 3-7 in its last 10 games against Memphis (17-54), but the Lakers come in riding a season-high five-game winning streak.
Bryant has averaged 53.6 points during the stretch, which began when he scored a season-high 65 points in a March 16 overtime win over Portland. He then scored 50 against Minnesota, 60 against Memphis and 50 against New Orleans before the streak ended Sunday with a 43-point effort in a 115-113 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Sunday.
Prior to the five-game winning streak, the Lakers had dropped seven straight - the longest losing streak of Phil Jackson’s NBA head coaching career. Now, a win Monday would give Los Angeles its first six-game winning streak since an 11-game run from March 13-April 2, 2004.
“I think it energized us as a team and it energized the city. I think that’s great,” Bryant said of his run of 50-point games. “Before that, it seemed like we were kind of dead in the water. We’re playing with a lot more energy right now.”
On Sunday, Bryant went 15-for-33 from the floor and had nine rebounds. With his 43-point effort, he fell short of Wilt Chamberlain’s record of seven consecutive games scoring 50 or more, set in the 1961-62 season.
“What? No!” Bryant said when asked if he felt any disappointment. “I’ve always said Wilt’s a human video game. For me to be in the same breath with him, even if it’s a short little breath, is pretty cool.”
Los Angeles, which is looking to improve to 2-0 on its five-game homestand, has moved into sixth place in the Western Conference, with a four-game lead over the eighth-place Clippers.
The Lakers face a Memphis team that dropped its fourth straight game Monday, falling 105-87 at Phoenix. Pau Gasol had 21 points and 10 rebounds, while Rudy Gay added 13 points, but the Grizzlies fell to 0-2 on their six-game road trip and a league-worst 5-30 away from home this season.
Memphis played without starters Mike Miller and Damon Stoudemire, who were both sidelined with knee tendinitis and are uncertain for this contest.
“Obviously we’re short-handed,” Gasol said. “We have a lot of guys done but we’ve still got to do with the guys that we have. We have to be able to play with a little bit more confidence offensively … because that’s the only way we’re going to be able to stay in the game.”
Los Angeles has taken two of three games in the season series, including Bryant’s 60-point effort in a 121-119 victory at Memphis last Thursday. Bryant had 21 points when the Lakers defeated the Grizzlies 91-81 on Nov. 12 at Staples Center.