81 For Kobe Bryant

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Kobe Bryant poured in 81 points to record the second-highest individual scoring performance in NBA history, leading the Los Angeles Lakers to a 122-104 win over the Toronto Raptors on Sunday.
Only Wilt Chamberlain, who hit 100 points for the Philadelphia 76ers against the New York Knicks in 1962, has scored more.

Bryant’s 81 points demolished his previous career high of 62.

As Bryant closed in on 80 points during the fourth quarter, the crowd at the Staples Center jumped to their feet, erupting in applause with every basket.

Bryant did most of his damage in the second half, hitting 55 points and out-scoring the entire Raptors team’s 41.

He left the game with five seconds to play to a thunderous standing ovation and chants of “MVP, MVP”.

“I could never dream of this,” Bryant told court-side reporters after the game.

Only five players have scored more than 70 points in a game, Bryant, Chamberlain, David Robinson, Elgin Baylor and David Thompson.

Bryant reached his milestone shooting 28-of-46 from the floor, including 7-of-13 from three point range and 18-of-20 from the foul line.

As the final quarter ticked down, Bryant’s team mates kept feeding the NBA’s leading scorer at every opportunity, helping him push his staggering total higher.


“This is just my second year and this is the eighth or ninth time I’ve seen him make history,” team mate Lamar Odom said. "He was really focused. Continued …

"It was just great to be out there tonight. I’m lost for words, it was a pleasure to watch.

“We had lost two in a row and there was no way he was going to let us lose tonight.”

While Bryant was enjoying another amazing night, a victory was far from guaranteed with the Raptors leading by 17 points early in the third quarter.

But the Lakers 27-year-old all-star took over to bring the Lakers back, hitting 27 in the third and 28 in the fourth quarter.

Only two other Lakers managed double figures, Smush Parker scoring 13 and Chris Mihm adding 12.

Mike James led the Raptors with 26 points and 10 rebounds while Chris Bosh had 18 points and eight boards.

The last time the Raptors faced the Lakers they held Bryant to a season low 11 points.


Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton each scored 24 points to give the Detroit Pistons a 99-97 win over the Houston Rockets on Sunday in Auburn Hills.

Not even a season high 43-point effort from Tracy McGrady was enough to lift the stuttering Rockets, who lost for the eighth time in nine games.

Ben Wallace had 13 points and 15 rebounds while Rasheed Wallace and Maurice Evans each contributed 11 points to the Detroit total as the Pistons registered their seventh straight win, improving their record to an NBA best 33-5.

But the Rockets made the league leaders work for the win.

Trailing 98-94, Luther Head hit a three-pointer to get the Rockets within one with 10 seconds remaining.

The Pistons then had a chance to wrap the game up when Hamilton went to the free throw line, but left the door open for the Rockets by sinking only one attempt.

Double teamed and unable to get a clean shot, McGrady dished off to Head, who watched his potential game winning three-pointer clang off the rim to give the Pistons the win.


In San Antonio, Carmelo Anthony bagged 20 points and Earl Boykins 19 as the Denver Nuggets tamed the Spurs 89-85, extending their win streak to five games.

Andre Miller chipped in with 15 points and 10 assists but a big defensive effort also contributed to the win, the Nuggets forcing 17 turnovers and 13 steals.

Tim Duncan was also effectively neutralized, the Nuggets holding the twice-league MVP to 14 points, including just two in the second half, as the Spurs lost at home for just the third time this season.

Nazr Mohammed paced the Spurs with a season high 17 points and 12 rebounds.

In Miami, Shaquille O’Neal scored 27 points and pulled down six rebounds, and Dwyane Wade added 22 points and six boards, sparking the Miami Heat to a 119-99 win over Sacramento.

Peja Stojakovic had 19 points and Mike Bibby added 17 as the Kings dropped their second straight game.

Holding a 95-89 lead with just under 10 minutes to play, the Heat put the game away with a 13-4 run, out-scoring the Kings 30-15 in the final quarter.

(Writing by Steve Keating in Toronto)