Bryant continues Jazz-killing ways
Kobe Bryant's spectacular basketball ability has earned comparisons to a lot of people, but never Miss America.
Not until Sunday.
With Utah facing a 3-0 deficit in its Western Conference semifinal series against the Lakers, coach Jerry Sloan was asked about Bryant's ability to dominate the Jazz.
"He draws so much attention," Sloan said. "You give too much help, somebody else is open. If you don't give enough help, he's got what he wants. Kind of like Miss America. She gets what she wants."
After the Lakers' light workout at EnergySolutions Arena, a curious look spread across Bryant's face when told of Sloan's comparison.
"Miss America?" he said.
Told that Sloan was complimenting his ability to put up huge numbers despite being the focus of opposing defenses, Bryant smiled, but only slightly.
"I'm just trying to get to my spots and, if the double comes, find the open man and, if it doesn't, go to work," he said.
In the first three games of this series, Bryant has scored 30, 31 and 35 points.
In 2008, he became the first opponent in Jazz playoff history to score at least 30 points in four straight games.
Michael Jordan never did it.
Neither did Magic Johnson, Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O'Neal, Dirk Nowitzki, Alex English or anybody else.
But Bryant can do it again in Game 4 tonight, if he scores 30 points or more.
"I'm not surprised at all he can tear it up in the game," teammate Derek Fisher said, trying unsuccessfully to keep a straight face.
"The rest of us are out there practicing and giving it our all and he just gets to show up for the game and put the cape on and do his thing. So it's not surprising at all."
So far, the Lakers have scored 326 points in this series.
Bryant's total of 96 points translates into 29 percent of their offense.
"He knows what he can get; he knows what he can do," said Sloan. "He knows how to get open when they need a shot. He knows how to take a guy and beat him one-on-one. And he makes it look easy. That's who he is."
Said Jazz point guard Deron Williams: "He's had like, what, 10 50-point games in a row? So he's playing well."
Two weeks ago, Bryant was struggling and the Lakers were locked into a close first-round series with eighth-seeded Oklahoma City.
Although L.A. prevailed in six games, Bryant wasn't himself as he battled knee and finger injuries.
At one point against the Thunder, Bryant said he was "playing on one leg."
"I'll never be 100 percent," Bryant said. "But I'm going to keep getting better and maybe I can get to 90. ... I feel pretty good right now."
After watching him shoot 35-for-65 from the field against them, the Jazz can't argue.
"It looks like his knee is feeling a lot better," Williams said. "He's playing like Kobe."
Kyle Korver agrees: "Coming into the series everybody was talking about his shooting percentage and how he was forcing the issue. ... [But] he's hit tough shots. He's hit big shots. He's playing very, very well."
In the Lakers' 111-110 win in Game 3 on Saturday night, Bryant scored his team's first nine points.
He also scored seven of L.A.'s final 10 points, after Utah took a 102-101 lead with two minutes remaining.
In Game 1, Bryant scored 13 of the Lakers' final 19 points, helping them rally from a late four-point deficit.
"He's doing what he does -- making big shots, putting his team on his shoulders when he has to," said C.J. Miles.
If he was in Sloan's position, how would Bryant defend himself?
"Not saying," he said. "I'll plead the Fifth."
Kobe Bryant's game-by-game offensive production in this series against Utah: