Bryant passes West to become Lakers’ scoring leader
MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Kobe Bryant got the Los Angeles Lakers’ franchise scoring record, but the Memphis Grizzlies spoiled the celebration.
Bryant scored 44 points, passing Jerry West as the Lakers’ career scorer, but it wasn’t enough as the Grizzlies got 22 points and 17 rebounds from Zach Randolph to defeat the Lakers 95-93 on Monday night.
“It’s a great honor to say the least (because) of the great players that have played here and the tradition we have,” Bryant said of becoming the Lakers’ career leading scorer. “(West) taught me so much when I was 17 years old. He showed me a lot about the game, the jump shot and spin moves and all the others.
“Even though it’s me passing him in the record books, it’s still us, and it’s still Magic and all the other great players.”
While the focus was on Bryant and the Lakers’ record, Memphis held on for the victory. Rudy Gay led the Grizzlies with 25 points, and his 3-pointer with 29.5 seconds left helped Memphis end its two-game losing streak.
“I was open and Marc (Gasol) gave me a good pass, and I made the shot,” said Gay, who was 10 of 19 from the field. “You know I’ve never been reluctant to shoot at the end of the game.”
The basket was just enough for Memphis to escape with the win after holding 11-point leads in both halves. Ron Artest’s 3-point attempt from the right side bounced high off the rim as the horn sounded, snapping the Lakers’ four-game winning streak.
“I thought it was good,” Artest said of the last shot, adding: “Obviously, if there was more time, you would head-fake and do something else. I thought it was about to drop in too. I thought it had a chance.”
Bryant actually had the ball for the last possession, and as he has done many times before, seemed set to carry the Lakers to victory. But Bryant had to give up the ball as the clock wound down and Memphis defenders surrounded him.
“They had like three guys (on me),” Bryant said. “Ron was wide open in the corner. I’ll take that look any time. It just went a little long.”
Bryant passed West’s mark on a breakaway dunk in the third quarter. Bryant made 16 of 28 shots, including 4 of 7 outside the arc. Artest added 18 points, while Pau Gasol had 10 points.
Lester Hudson had 13 points for Memphis, and Marc Gasol finished with 11 points and 13 rebounds for Memphis.
While Bryant got the franchise record for scoring, the loss prevented Lakers coach Phil Jackson from passing Pat Riley as the winningest coach in regular-season games for Los Angeles. The two are tied at 533.
The game was tied at 88, when Memphis ran the shot clock to near the end before Randolph made a 22-footer for a 90-88 lead with 1:08 left. His two free throws extended the lead to 92-88. Bryant scored on a drive before Gay’s 3-pointer gave Memphis a 95-90 lead, and the Grizzlies held on.
“It feels like a playoff game every night to us because they’re so important,” Memphis guard Mike Conley said. “Everybody’s so close in the West, so we have to treat every game the same and come out with the same mentality.”
Memphis got an unexpected offensive boost from Hudson, the rookie shooting guard who was picked up Jan. 8 off waivers from the Celtics. Hudson had played in only four of the 12 games since joining the team, managing a total of nine points.
Hudson had 11 points – his career high – in the second quarter as Memphis extended the lead to 11 before carrying a 52-50 lead into the half as the Lakers outscored Memphis 11-2 to close the half.
Meanwhile, Bryant had 23 points at the half, moving him close to West’s mark.
“At halftime, I told the guys that he (Bryant) was forcing the action, and let’s get him over the hump and start playing team basketball,” Jackson said. “It didn’t seem like we ever did.”
In the end, Memphis, which had defeated division leaders including Cleveland, Orlando, Denver and Dallas, added the Lakers to the list as the Grizzlies have gone 25-13 after a 1-8 start.
“These young guys stepped up and played great,” Randolph said. “Rudy hit big shots. O.J. (Mayo) played good. Marc played good. It was just a good all-around game for the whole team.”
NOTES: Memphis reserve Sam Young, the Grizzlies’ leading scorer off the bench with a 7.5-point average, was inactive because of an allergic reaction. The Lakers wrapped up an eight-game road trip Monday night with a record of 5-3. … After the pre-game introductions, Pau Gasol, who started his career in Memphis, bumped fists all the way down press row to the Grizzlies bench. … The teams were tied at 24 at the end of the first because of a mental lapse by Gay, who thought the game clock was running out and fired up a 47-footer with about 5 seconds left. The errant shot bounced hard off the backboard, and the Lakers moved the ball to Bryant, who connected on a 3-pointer from the corner as time expired. … As is usually the case in Memphis, there were plenty of Lakers fans in the crowd, many wearing Bryant’s No. 24 jersey. “Hopefully, they are going to keep their Lakers jerseys at home and start buying the Grizzlies gear,” Marc Gasol said. “I’m sorry for (the Lakers fans). A lot of them came out. Well, not too sorry.”
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