On a day where all the news surrounded Andrew Bynum, the night belonged to Kobe Bryant.
The Lakers found out that Andrew Bynum will miss the next two to three months due to a torn MCL, and played their first game without him Monday against the Knicks. Kobe Bryant picked up the slack from the very beginning, and finished with a Madison Square Garden record 61 points as the Lakers cruised to a 126-117 victory.
Bryant scored 18 points in the first quarter, had 34 by halftime, and finished the third with 46. He reached the 50-point mark from the free throw line with six minutes remaining, and broke Michael Jordan's record of 55 from the charity stripe as well. Bryant made 19 of his 31 field goal attempts, and hit on all 20 of his free throw attempts.
The chants of "M-V-P" from the home crowd were well-deserved.
Jordan set the Garden scoring record for a Knicks' opponent back in 1995, in the famous "double nickel" game where he dropped 55 points in just his fifth game back from his brief retirement. Bernard King had the overall arena record with a 60-point performance back in 1984.
Kobe joined Jordan, LeBron James, and Rip Hamilton as the only players of the opposing team to surpass the 50-point mark against the Knicks at the Garden. For Bryant, it was the 24th time in his career he's scored 50 points or more, and the fifth time he's gone beyond 60.
As for the actual game, the Lakers led by eight points at the half, and the Knicks cut the lead to just two four minutes into the third period. But the Lakers went on a 17-6 run from there, and cruised comfortably to the final victory margin of nine points. Pau Gasol had a pretty good night himself, and finished with 31 points and 14 rebounds.
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This night however, will likely belong to Kobe Bryant for a long time. He shattered records that stood for 14 and 25 years respectively, and it's likely that his 61 will be the standard in New York City for generations to come.