The Clippers try to continue closing in on another postseason berth, when they face Bryant and the rival Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night.
Bryant scored 39 points Tuesday, also becoming the youngest player in NBA history to reach 19,000 for his career, but the Lakers fell 111-105 to Denver for their third loss in four games.
The seventh-place Nuggets moved within 1 1/2 games of the Lakers (39-35) for sixth in the Western Conference. The result also damaged the Clippers’ (36-37) hopes of moving up in the seedings. The Clippers, now holding the eighth and final playoff spot in the West, are one game back of Denver.
The remaining schedule does give the Clippers a chance to gain ground. They host the Nuggets on Saturday, then face the Lakers again April 12. However, the Lakers have won both previous meetings in this season series, including a 40-point effort by Bryant in a 105-101 victory Nov. 21.
Bryant, who is averaging 44.7 points over his last nine games, has 19,013 career points after his performance Tuesday. At 28 years, 223 days of age, he surpassed Michael Jordan (29 years, 62 days) for the youngest to reach 19,000 points. Bryant also is the 42nd player in NBA history to reach the mark.
“It’s always an honor to reach milestones like that,” Bryant said. “It’s always fun. I didn’t know what the people were clapping about until I got in the trainer’s room.”
Lamar Odom had 17 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists for the Lakers’ first triple-double this season, while Luke Walton added 14 points. Lakers center Kwame Brown was limited to 16 minutes of action after re-aggravating his sprained left ankle in a second-quarter collision with Denver’s Marcus Camby.
Brown’s status is uncertain for this contest as is that of Clippers forward Corey Maggette, who missed Saturday’s 99-86 victory over Portland due to a chest contusion. Maggette, the team’s second-leading scorer with 16.1 points per game, suffered the injury in Friday night’s 105-101 victory over Sacramento.
Even without him, the Clippers managed to complete a 2-0 road trip and win for the sixth time in seven games overall. Cuttino Mobley scored 25 points and Elton Brand added 21 against the Blazers as Los Angeles shot 58.1 percent (36-for-62) from the field.
The Clippers, who reached the Western Conference semifinals last season before losing to Phoenix, are seeking their first consecutive playoff berths since the 1992 and 1993.
“We’re playing well, we’re in tune, and we’re doing what we’ve got to do to get a playoff spot,” Brand said. “We’re just going to try to win as many games as we can.”
The Clippers are the home team for this contest between the teams, which both play at Staples Center. The Lakers will be the home team when they face the Clippers again in eight days.