Kobe Bryant is doing all he can to get the Los Angeles Lakers back into the playoffs. He will try to continue his torrid scoring pace Sunday night when the Lakers host the sputtering Sacramento Kings.
Bryant finished March averaging 40.4 points in 13 games. The league leader with 31.2 points per game overall this season, Bryant has scored 50 or more eight times this season and 19 times in his career.
His 43-point effort against the Golden State Warriors last Sunday helped cap a season-high five-game winning streak for Los Angeles (35-37), but he only scored 23 Tuesday as the Lakers fell 88-86 to Memphis.
The nine-time All-Star almost carried the Lakers to another win Friday, when he scored 53 points - including a game-tying fall-away 3-pointer late in regulation - but fell 107-104 in overtime to Houston when his 3-pointer in the extra period hit the rim before time expired.
Lamar Odom led the rest of the Lakers with 16 points and 17 rebounds as Bryant shot 19-for-44 from the floor.
“My shots were going long. I took a few deep breaths and regrouped,” said Bryant, who had 17 points in the final 4:07 of regulation to help the team overcome a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit.
The Lakers are in sixth place in the Western Conference, 4 1/2 games ahead of ninth-place Golden State with 10 games remaining. They will try to avoid losing their third consecutive game for the first time since starting March with a season-high seven-game slide.
That losing skid began with a 116-108 loss to the Kings (30-41) at Staples Center on March 2, evening the season series at one game apiece between these teams. Bryant has totaled 72 points in the two meetings.
Sacramento’s Mike Bibby had 33 points in the March 2 game, and was even better in the previous meeting - a 132-128 loss on Jan. 4 - when he had a season-high 38 points on 12-of-21 shooting (57.1 percent). He also had 40 points against the Lakers in a victory on Jan. 19, 2006.
The point guard hopes he can replicate those performances after going 5-for-19 from the field - 1-for-10 from beyond the arc - for 16 points in a 105-101 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday.
The Kings, who have lost nine of their last 11 contests, are trying to close a five-game gap on the Clippers and Denver Nuggets for the final playoff spots in the West. Sacramento has 11 games left as it tries to extend its club-record streak of eight consecutive postseason appearances.
“When you look at it mathematically we had a chance to make the playoffs, but you definitely couldn’t give a game like this away against a team right ahead of you,” Kings forward Corliss Williamson said.