Kobe and the Ides of March

From March 16-23, 2007, Kobe Bryant had four consecutive games of 50 or more points, a streak previously only achieved by Chamberlain.

Kobe-and-the-Ides-of-March

On March 15, 2007, the Lakers suffered a tough loss to the Denver Nuggets by 27 ignominious points. It was one more within a fateful month in which they still did not know the victory, having fallen in each and every one of the seven games played and going from a record of 33-25 to one of 33-32 that began to complicate them even the playoffs. The team suffered in an almost definitive way after the loss of Shaquille O'Neal and the project around Kobe Bryant was leaking due to the lack of parts. If the 2004-05 season, injuries to the guard through, the Angelenos were left without playoffs, in the following they regained hope with the return to the benches of Phil Jackson. Of course, the second year of Zen Master on the benches after his return was making it clear that only with Kobe you could not get anywhere.The Lakers suffered with a roster that included Smush Parker, Kwame Brown, Sahsa Vujacic, Luke Walton, Brian Cook or Ronnie Turiaf. Lamar Odom was not a lieutenant to assure anything, something that would be confirmed in two years later, when he adopted a role of Sixth Man that allowed him to play with less pressure and with more people (Pau and Bynum) between him and Kobe. Bynum was barely 18 years old and was not prepared to assume the position of starting center, in which he had to play several games due to the injuries that plagued his teammates. And a part of the locker room, which included Parker, Brown or secondary ones like Aaron Mckie did not help what Phil Jackson called the "spiritual connection" of a loose and aimless squad.

"In mid-March, Kobe got fed up and decided to take charge of the situation." This is how Phil Jackson summed up what was to come. Of course, the feelings were negative on that March 15, a date in which the Ides of March were celebrated on the Roman calendar, a theoretical day of good omens but that for the 2007 Lakers it was anything but. The reality is that they had 13 defeats in the last 16 games after an acceptable start to the campaign, but the bad streak led them down a negative path that took them further and further away from the meritorious 45 victories they had achieved the previous year, with Kobe averaging 35.4 points per game.

The start of the streak: 65 points to the Blazers

It all started on March 16, just one day after the tough loss in Denver. Kobe, who had had an irregular start, came averaging 29 points per game after improving in the last 13 games, in which he was at 31 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists. Of course, his improvement contrasted with that of a lost team with difficulties in all aspects. That day, the Lakers arrived at Staples, where they had not won since February 23 against the Celtics (with 38 + 2 + 9 + 5 from Bryant) .

The trend seemed to be the same after the first quarter, in which the Lakers finished eight down (16-24). Kobe woke up with 19 points in the second and put his team ahead before the break, but throughout the third quarter and most of the fourth, Portland pushed and seemed to tip the balance. However, Kobe appeared in the cluth time, he went to 24 points in the fourth quarter with a masterful series of shots (9 of 11) and with 4 triples scored without failure that forced the extension. There he scored 9 more points, also without failure, including a triple from the corner that woke up a Staples in torpor, and gave the victory to the Lakers. In total they were 65 points, the second best score of his career after 81 achieved in January 2006 against the Raptors. The shooting series was formidable (23 out of 39), but the triples series even more so: 8 out of 12, 67% correct. In addition, he scored 11 of 12 in free throws, captured 7 rebounds, distributed 3 assists and stole 3 balls. In 50 minutes. Words are unnecessary.

The streak

After the duel, Kobe decided that if that was the model and it had worked, he had to follow it. This is how he understood basketball and that is how he exercised it at certain moments in his career, especially in the two seasons before Pau Gasol joined the team in February 2008. The guard scored 50 points against Kevin Garnett's Wolves in the next game, 28 of them in the second half and in the easiest game the Lakers had in the entire streak. They won by 7, but the scoreboard was made up by the last set of the visitors (22-34). He rounded off his performance with 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals, and returned to throw masterfully: 17 of 35 in shots, with a good 4 of 9 in triples and 12 of 14 in free throws in another 44 minutes of play.

On the 22nd came a new feat, this time against the Grizzlies and with the press speculating how far the explosion of the guard would go, who continued to do his thing: 60 points in Memphis in a beautiful duel with a great Pau Gasol (35 + 15 with 17 of 23 in shots). The Lakers achieved their third consecutive victory, again miraculously (119-121) and achieving their first away victory since February 25, when they conquered Oracle. Kobe rounded off his performance with 5 rebounds and 4 assists, throwing again a lot and very well: 20 of 37 in field goals with 3 of 7 in triples and 17 of 18 in free throws.The feat was already done and it only remained to be seen if reaching Wilt Charmberlain was possible. The pivot had been the only one who had managed to add at least four consecutive games of 50 or more points, back in the prehistory of the League and reaching seven. Those things that were done in the 60s but that were unthinkable in the 21st century. Until Kobe arrived, who against the Hornets, in the second straight game away from home and also in back to back, scored 50 points. The basket that certified the feat was with still 5 minutes remaining, when the Hornets, that year in Oklahoma due to Hurricane Katrina, were in full comeback. Chris Paul went at 28 + 6 + 12 and Tyson Chandler got a 22 + 22. But no one could stop Kobe, who, touched by a magic wand, made his umpteenth show of power and another performance for the annals that entered the history books. Only he and Chamberlain did something like that. And the 81 points are the second entry in history also after the legendary center. Two legendary men who have been linked on several occasions thanks to the countless records of the Black Mamba, the only one who has approached the legendary center.

What happened after the streak?

Evidently, the end of 2006-07 was not exactly the one dreamed by the Lakers or, of course, by Kobe Bryant. The guard extended his streak and scored 43 against the Warriors, achieving another victory for his team, but returned to earth in the loss at home to the Grizzlies, a game in which he remained at 23 points with 7 of 26 in shots that certified that he was exhausted after resting 3:02, 3:27, 2:49, 1:08 and 1:38 in the last three games. He recovered by endorsing up to 53 points to the Rockets pitching 44 times. "The rest of the players complained that they could not see the ball and I had to ask Kobe to moderate himself," Phil Jackson said after that. And Bryant had to stop.

The streak allowed the Lakers to establish themselves in the playoffs and Kobe still had time to make a game of 46 points and two more than 50. In total, he exceeded that figure 10 times during the year, also a record since Chamberlain. Not even Michael Jordan beat any of those numbers. Neither James Harden, what curiosities of fate, was only 9 last year, when he went to 36.1 per game and beat Kobe's 2005-06 (35.4). Of course, the Black Mamba scored more total points that season: 2832 for the 2818 of his rival.

Going back to 2007, the Lakers finished seventh in the West with a 42-40 record, tied by those Wariors who would beat Nowitzki's Mavericks and the 67 victories in the biggest exhibition that Oracle saw until the arrival of Curry and company. The Angelenos were not so lucky, who would meet in the first round with some old acquaintances: Steve Nash's Suns. The previous year they had been held against the ropes (3-1) thanks to Bryant's legendary performances, especially in the fourth game, but they fell in the favorable match ball of the sixth despite the 50 points of their star and succumbed in the seventh. This year, the series would not be so close: 4-1 and home. They had already finished the regular season with a worrisome 4-8 when Phil Jackson's teams usually finish the season well. It was not for less the first round. The only game they won, the third at Staples, was thanks to 45 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists from Kobe, who had averaged 40 points in the last 17 regular season games. Little more to add.

That year was a key one for Kobe, more than at a sports level on a spiritual level. It was the first in which he wore that number 24 that marked the second part of his career, leaving behind the 8 and all that it meant for him. There the new Kobe emerged, the least selfish and more companion, also the most complete and mature sportingly speaking. Its evolution was completed with the arrival of Pau Gasol and the rings of 2009 and 2010, when his figure was no longer subject to scrutiny and the praises were practically unanimous. Of course, after 2006-07 there was another important episode in his career. Kobe asked to leave the Lakers, and reproached Doctor Buss for his lack of resources to sign pieces that would allow him to fight for a new championship. The boss allowed him to negotiate in Barcelona with other franchises and the agreement with the Chicago Bulls of Michael Jordan, that shadow that he chased even in dreams, was close. "The prospect of transferring Kobe seemed catastrophic to me," acknowledged Phil Jackson, who at that time was in full reconciliation with his pupil.

Finally, Kobe did not leave and demanded reinforcements and the return of Jerry West to the offices, a very common practice today and within the NBA of empowered players but not everyone could afford at that time. The figure of Pau fulfilled the expectations of the guard, who completed all the fingers of one hand with the rings of 2009 and 2010. Of course, the ides of March 2007, remained for history: 56.3 points, 6.3 rebounds , 2.8 assists, 1.5 steals and only 2 losses with 54% in field goals, 51% in triples and 93% in free throws in 47 minutes of play. One of the largest, if not the best, exhibits in the history of modern basketball.



Photos from as.com
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