LOS ANGELES (AP)—Kobe Bryant(notes) always credits his mentors and teachers when he rolls past a scoring milestone. Given the manner in which he hit his latest superlative, he felt it was only appropriate to give a nod to Hakeem Olajuwon.
Scoring basket after basket on turnaround jumpers and inside moves against the undersized Memphis defenders in the low post, Bryant carried the Lakers while reaching the milestone 38 days before Wilt Chamberlain did. With a second-half surge from his growing repertoire of inside moves, he even overtook Grizzlies guard Allen Iverson(notes) for 16th place on the NBA’s career scoring list.
Bryant visited Olajuwon over the summer to learn more about low-post play, and the Houston Rockets’ famed center provided Kobe with even more skills to keep knocking down scoring marks.
“You think back on all the years I’ve been here, all the mentors I’ve had,” Bryant said. “I’ve learned everything from other guys that have been here. There’s nothing original in my game.”
Even if Bryant doesn’t invent, there are nights when he perfects—and the rest of the Lakers were grateful for his attention to detail.
Ron Artest(notes) had 19 points and seven assists in the fourth straight win for the defending NBA champions, who played without injured big men Andrew Bynum(notes) and Pau Gasol(notes). Lamar Odom(notes) managed just three points before fouling out on his 30th birthday, but Bryant and Artest probably can carry the Lakers until they’re whole again.
“We don’t really know the identity of the team right now,” Artest said. “We’re driving without a license—no identity. We’re like ‘The Bourne Ultimatum.”’
Before punctuating his night with two beautiful fallaway jumpers in the final 2 minutes, Bryant became the 17th NBA player to score 24,000 points on a second-quarter basket. At 31 years, 75 days old, Bryant needed every bit of his head start from skipping college to beat Chamberlain to the mark.
Bryant scored exactly 41 points for the third time in four games, giving him 99 career 40-point games. Bryant scored 15 points in the third quarter while the Lakers turned a halftime deficit into a 12-point lead, and he added 10 in the final period while the healthy Lakers held on.
“It looked easy because I did a lot of work early to get my position (in the low post),” Bryant said. “It just comes easier to me this year because I’m well-rested. I have the energy to carry things for a longer period of time.”
Iverson had eight points in 22 minutes coming off the bench in his third game with Memphis. Before the game, the 10-time All-Star said he didn’t fully understand the controversy over several barbed comments he made earlier in the Grizzlies’ road trip when he said he didn’t want to come off the bench or be part of a rebuilding team.
Rudy Gay(notes) scored 22 points—two in the fourth quarter—and Zach Randolph(notes) had 21 points and 15 rebounds for the Grizzlies, who are winless on a four-game trip that ends Saturday night against the Clippers.
“For the most part, we played pretty good defense on Kobe, but he hit tough shots,” Gay said. “(Bynum and Gasol) are really good players, but they also have Kobe, and Kobe’s a great player. So it’s not like just because those two guys were out that we thought we were going to win. You’ve still got to play the game.”
The Lakers opened a stretch with 14 of 16 games at home by beating Memphis for the fifth straight time overall and the fifth in a row at Staples Center.
Bynum sat out after straining his right elbow in Wednesday’s win at Houston, while Gasol missed the chance to play against his brother, Marc, the Grizzlies’ starting center, because of a strained hamstring that’s kept him out all season.
“Great teams aren’t just one or two players,” Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said. “They’re great for a reason. They need those two players to compete on the highest stage, but during the regular season, they’ll find a way to get around those injuries.”
NOTES: Buffalo Bills WR Terrell Owens attended the game, waiting in the tunnel afterward for Lakers friends to finish dressing. … Mbenga, the Congolese 7-footer, had started two games in his career, one in each of his first two seasons with Dallas. … The Lakers honored John Radcliffe, their longtime scorer, by presenting a championship ring to his wife, Carolyn. Radcliffe, who had held his job since 1961, died during the summer. … Bryant is responsible for the three highest-scoring performances by an opponent in Grizzlies history, including a 60-point game in March 2007.