From now until pretty much the end of Kobe Bryant's career, anytime the Lakers host the Toronto Raptors early in the season, there will be talk of the 81 point effort from Kobe that took place nearly three years ago. While 81 isn't likely to happen again in our lifetime, Kobe needed only 38 points against the Raptors to become the youngest player in NBA history to reach 22,000 points in their career. But thanks to the depth of the Lakers, Kobe sat out the fourth quarter and didn't bother with the achievement, settling for a 112-99 Lakers victory instead.
Kobe had 21 points at the half, but spent much of the third quarter in facilitator mode before siting out the fourth. He easily could have gotten the 38 points, but, this season especially, those things no longer seem to be important to the reigning MVP.
"To be honest, I don't follow anything of that sort. I just go out there and do what I do," Bryant said. "I don't care about that stuff. You guys got me all wrong. I just play. I play hard, and I play the same way all the time. I never concern myself with milestones or anything like that."
Phil Jackson, ever the cynic, knows that at times in the past, Kobe has been consumed by his own personal demons.
"Kobe does have agendas at times that will come out," Jackson said. "A couple of years ago when things didn't go well, he went on that tear. So he could get into that. It's a long season, but I hope he stays focused on what the overall plan is."
While Kobe rested the entire fourth quarter, Andrew Bynum helped put the game out of reach. Playing his second game since being diagnosed with a bone spur in his foot, Bynum finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds, and scored seven during a key fourth quarter run that put the Lakers up by 19 with under six minutes remaining. Equally impressive was Bynum's defensive effort on Chris Bosh, who had 30, 39, 24, and 42 points in his last four games. Against the Lakers, he could manage only 12 points on 4-of-13 shooting in 37 minutes of action.
Pau Gasol had 14 points in the first quarter, and finished with 24 and nine rebounds. Trevor Ariza continued to provide the spark off the bench, and finished with 14 points, six rebounds, and five assists in just 22 minutes on the court.
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The Lakers will play their next three on the road versus subpar Eastern Conference competition, before coming home to host Milwaukee and going up to Sacramento for a game against the Kings. If all goes as planned, they should be sitting at 19-1 when Shaquille O'Neal and the Phoenix Suns come to town on December 10th.