The Los Angeles Lakers beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 100-94 on Sunday evening to extend their longest streak winning streak of the season to three games.
History was on the schedule, as Kobe Bryant passed Michael Jordan to go third on the NBA's all-time scoring list. With 5:24 to play in the second quarter, Bryant earned a trip to the free throw line and knocked down his two foul shots. After hitting two free throws with a torn Achilles, passing Jordan from the free throw line did not at all seem out of place. No one assisted on Bryant's historic basket.
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For a moment, the Minnesota Timberwolves halted the game to give Bryant the game ball and allow the crowd to acknowledge the incredible feat. Bryant also received hugs from his teammates, coach and longtime athletic trainer Gary Vitti.
"I wasn't expecting the Timberwolves organization to honor me like that," Bryant said on TWC Sportsnet after the game. "That was awesome. It felt great to have that. I didn't know what it was going to feel like."
Bryant added, "I'd be lying if I said it didn't mean something."
Then, the history of the occasion was momentarily trumped by the present game at hand.
The Lakers, who carried a four-point lead into the halftime break, relied on balance and their bench to carry them to that point. Carlos Boozer, who was playing his fourth straight game off the bench, finished with 22 points and 13 rebounds. He was one of the guys Lakers coach Byron Scott trusted down the stretch of a close game, and Boozer came through. The veteran power forward tabbed 12 points and seven rebounds in the final period.
While the Lakers managed to never trail in the second half of Sunday's game, they were embroiled in a close contest down the stretch. Bryant stepped forward to hit big shot after big shot when the game was on the line. The 36-year-old scored 10 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter, and none were bigger than the three that came on a 26-foot shot from distance that went in with 1:22 to play in the game.
Before the shot, the Lakers and Timberwolves were tied at 94-94. Bryant gave the Lakers the lead for good, as the Timberwolves would not score again, and the Lakers won 100-94.
Bryant finished with 26 points in the victory, but the historical significance carried more weight than simply winning a game.
"It's just been an unbelievable career," Scott said after the game. "He just plays to win."