Pain doesn’t seem to phase Kobe Bryant, especially if his teammates continue to offer their support.
Despite a finger injury, the reigning league MVP hopes to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to a third straight victory overall and fifth in a row over the lowly Washington Wizards on Thursday night at Staples Center.
Two days after dislocating his ring finger in a win over Cleveland, Bryant had 18 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists in a 108-97 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday.
It was the second triple-double in three games for Bryant, who hadn’t had one since April 1, 2005 before posting 28 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists in a win over Orlando on Friday.
“We’re in a good rhythm of how teams are playing against me, how they’re matching up against me,” said Bryant, who has 45 assists in his last four games — the most in any four-game stretch in his career.
Normally, the 16th career triple-double for Bryant, averaging 25.8 points all-time versus Washington, wouldn’t be overshadowed by a teammate. That was the case as 21-year-old center Andrew Bynum enters this contest coming off a career-high 42-points against the Clippers.
Plagued by injuries throughout his previous three seasons, Bynum shot 17-of-24 from the floor and pulled down 15 rebounds in making his 40th start.
“He is a great player,” said Clippers rookie DeAndre Jordan of Bynum, who became the first Lakers player to reach 40 points other than Bryant since Shaquille O’Neal scored 48 against Boston on March 21, 2003.
“He is big,” Jordan added. “When he gets in the paint he takes up a lot of space.”
With Bynum and Lamar Odom healthy, plus the usual consistency from veterans Pau Gasol and Derek Fisher, the Lakers (33-8) are the highest scoring team in the NBA at 107.6 points per game while boasting six players averaging 9.0 points or more. That’s taken the pressure off Bryant to carry the entire scoring load like in recent seasons.
Bryant scored 23 points to lead six players in double figures during Los Angeles’ 106-104 win at Washington on Dec. 5. The Lakers are averaging 113.3 points during their four-game winning streak over the Wizards.
Washington (9-32) enters this contest coming off a rare road win, 110-107 at Sacramento on Wednesday in the second of a four-game western swing. The victory snapped a six-game road losing streak to improve the Wizards to 3-17 away from home.
“We continue to fight,” said forward Antawn Jamison, who had 33 points and nine rebounds for the Wizards, who held on after seeing their 19-point fourth-quarter lead cut to one with 3.9 seconds left. “You don’t want to go into L.A. with two (straight) losses.”
Caron Butler scored 32 points for Washington, which shot 51.8 percent and topped the 100-point mark for just the second time in 13 games. With All-Star Gilbert Arenas highlighting a hefty injury list, the Wizards are among the lowest-scoring teams in the NBA averaging 94.6 points per game.
“This is our team, there is no help coming,” Butler said. “We have a lot of young guys playing right now and I’m getting more and more of a feeling of what they like to do out there.”
Butler, averaging 19.9 points on the season, had 26 against the Lakers last month.