NBA schedule and results: Spurs, Trail Blazers and Bulls, Hawks highlight Monday’s slate
Complete coverage of Monday’s NBA slate.
Kobe Bryant took sole possession of third place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list Sunday night with a 26-point effort in the Los Angeles Lakers‘ 100-94 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. Kobe passed Michael Jordan on a pair of free throws in the second quarter and now has 32,310 points in his 19-year career with L.A.
Timberwolves guard Zach LaVine fouled Bryant on a drive to the basket, which sent the future Hall of Famer to the line with a chance for history. He calmly sunk both shots, and got a brief chance to celebrate the accomplishment before play started again:
Bryant finished the game with 26 points, six rebounds, two assists and one steal in 35 minutes of action. He shot 7-of-20 from the field, including 2-of-7 from three and 10-of-13 from the charity stripe.
The Lakers may be one of the weakest teams in the Western Conference, but they’ve shown some signs of life in recent days with Kobe nearing the milestone. The team won all three of its games last week, including a 112-110 overtime stunner over the San Antonio Spurs on Friday night, and has gone 7-7 since a 1-9 start to the season.
Bryant’s resurgence at age 35 has been a driving factor in that, with the return of a healthy Nick Young giving the team a unique one-two punch of aggressive perimeter scorers. The Lakers might have the worst defense in the NBA, allowing over 111 points per 100 possessions, but they can make opponents sweat when they’re hot on the offensive end.
That wasn’t necessarily the case Sunday night, but a favorable matchup against the Timberwolves allowed the Lakers to take advantage. Minnesota has now won just three of its past 19 games after the loss to L.A. on Sunday, with Flip Saunders recently suggesting the team could dig into a serious rebuild if things don’t get better soon.
The Lakers only shot 42 percent from the floor against the Timberwolves, with Kobe shooting below 50 percent and Swaggy P going just 2-of-9 from the field en route to an anemic box score (seven points, one rebound, zero assists). Carlos Boozer was arguably the team’s top performer, recording 22 points on 10-of-14 shooting and 13 rebounds in 27 minutes off the bench.
Still, this was another successful night for L.A. in what’s increasingly becoming an entertaining season. Kobe got the milestone, the supporting cast did just enough and the team got the victory against one of the few teams it’s arguably better than. All these wins may not be great for the team’s odds of keeping its top-five protected first-round pick in the 2015 draft, but it may lead to a surprisingly amusing season for those watching the Lakers.
3 other things we learned
New orleans Pelicans almost snag another upset with Anthony Davis. A day after surprising the Cleveland Cavaliers with a 119-114 victory at home, New Orleans forced the Golden State Warriors to overtime before falling short in a 128-122 loss. The Warriors have been practically unbeatable this season, improving their record to 21-2, but Tyreke Evans (34 points, eight rebounds) and Jrue Holiday (30 points, nine assists) went off for huge performances to nearly pull off the stunner at home.
OKC is rising, Phoenix is falling. A couple of trends continued Sunday night as the Oklahoma City Thunder topped the Phoenix Suns, 112-88, at Chesapeake Energy Arena. The Thunder have now won six straight while the Suns have lost five straight, trimming the latter’s lead for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference to just a half-game. The top seven in the West seems pretty clear at this point, but several teams — including the Thunder, Suns, Pelicans, Sacramento Kings and Denver Nuggets — are all vying for that final spot. With OKC rising quickly as Phoenix tumbles, it’s possible the Western Conference playoff picture starts taking shape soon rather than later.
The Washington Wizards are one of the East’s best. A victory at home over the Utah Jazz isn’t necessarily impressive, but one has to tip their cap to the Wizards for nearing the top of the Eastern Conference standings. By beating the Jazz, 93-84, on Sunday night, Washington has kept within a half-game of the Toronto Raptors for the East’s best record at 17-6. In a conference without a favorite, the Wizards are increasingly looking like a legitimate contender behind the backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal.
Play of the night
On Kobe’s big night, it’s gotta be a Kobe highlight. The shooting guard’s milestone-passing point unfortunately came on a free throw, leaving us with a relatively unexciting moment, but this huge three-pointer that ultimately put the Lakers ahead for good was classic, stone cold Kobe Bryant.
1 fun thing
Oklahoma City Thunder 112, Phoenix Suns 88 (Welcome To Loud City recap | Bright Side of the Sun recap)
Los Angeles Lakers 100, Minnesota Timberwolves 94 (Silver Screen and Roll recap | Canis Hoopus recap)
Chicago Bulls 93, Miami Heat 75 (Blog a Bull | Hot Hot Hoops)
Toronto Raptors 95, New York Knicks 90 (Raptors HQ recap | Posting and Toasting recap)
Golden State Warriors 128, New Orleans Pelicans 122 (Golden State of Mind recap | The Bird Writes recap)
Washington Wizards 93, Utah Jazz 84 (Bullets Forever recap | SLC Dunk recap)
San Antonio Spurs 99, Denver Nuggets 91 (Pounding the Rock recap | Denver Stiffs recap)