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 Bryant reaches 23,000 in win over Thunder

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PostSubject: Bryant reaches 23,000 in win over Thunder   Wed Feb 11, 2009 5:49 pm

LOS ANGELES(AP) Kobe Bryant bounced back
quickly from the flu and became the youngest player in NBA history to
reach the 23,000-point plateau.Bryant showed no lingering
effects from being sick two days earlier, scoring 34 points in the Los
Angeles Lakers' surprisingly narrow 105-98 victory over the Oklahoma
City Thunder on Tuesday night.He obviously enjoys reaching such career milestones."It's always fun whenever you talk about the history of the game,'' Bryant said. "It's always a tremendous honor.''With
fans chanting "MVP,'' Bryant - 30 years, 171 days old - made a free
throw with 5:13 left in the second quarter, bouncing the ball off the
front of the rim, then the backboard and in. He joined 20 others in
league history who've reached that lofty mark.Wilt Chamberlain
was formerly the youngest at 30 years, 176 days. He still ranks as the
fastest to 23,000, reaching it in 606 games, while Bryant, who came
straight from high school to the NBA, reached it in his 917th game.Pau
Gasol had 22 points and 14 rebounds, and Lamar Odom had 12 points and a
season-high 18 boards for the Lakers, just back from a 6-0 trip they
concluded with wins against Boston and Cleveland.Bryant had chills and fever and needed intravenous fluids at halftime of Sunday's game against the Cavaliers.After the win over the Thunder, he said, "I feel really good. I got rested up, got fluids in me, got some decent meals in me.''Even if he was still sick, he undoubtedly would have played."I
love playing. I'd much rather be out there moving around,'' Bryant
said. "I'd feel a lot worse if I was just laying down and not doing
anything.''Although Los Angeles has the league's best record and
Oklahoma City one of the worst, the Thunder stayed close most of the
game. Down by as many as 15 early in the third quarter and behind by 10
with 1:20 remaining in the game, the Thunder pulled within 103-98 on
Jeff Green's 3 with 10 seconds to play. But Gasol's layup off an Odom
steal with 4 seconds on the clock wrapped up the scoring.Kevin
Durant scored 31 points, his fifth 30-point game in a row, and had 10
rebounds in the loss. Russell Westbrook had 17 points and nine rebounds.`It
was a good effort, but playing against the best team in basketball has
to be a flawless effort,'' Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. "We
did not have that, but we played hard. We came back in the second half
and did a good job, really competing and contesting the shots. We made
them miss shots."That is the best team in basketball. We competed with them.''Los Angeles held a 13-point lead at halftime, but the Thunder cut the deficit to 80-73 by the end of the third quarter.Bryant
and Odom combined on several spectacular plays. Down by two with 4
seconds left in the first quarter, the Lakers drew even as Bryant
grabbed Odom's length-of-the-court pass just over the outstretched
hands of a defender and dunked to tie it at 25. In the second quarter,
Bryant threaded a pass to Odom as he split defenders down the lane and
Odom seemed to catch the ball, go up and dunk all in the same motion.Even Lakers coach Phil Jackson smiled at that play.The
ailing Bryant scored 19 in Sunday's 101-91 victory at Cleveland that
was the Cavaliers' first home loss of the season. Odom took up the
slack, scoring a season-high 28.Notes: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar holds
the NBA career scoring record with 38,387 points. ... Jackson said
before the game that Oklahoma City was essentially a team in disarray
back when the Lakers beat them 105-94 in a preseason meeting, but
they've changed: "What you have is a young, athletic team that's
learning how to play together, found a rotation they've gotten
comfortable with, and a new coach. Defensively, they've still got a lot
to learn.'' The Thunder were 10-9 coming into the game, a dramatic
improvement over their 3-29 start.

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