The Washington Wizards did not spend much time today dwelling on Kobe Bryant's spectacular, NBA season-high 55-point eruption in the Los Angeles Lakers' 108-94 victory on Friday.
Great player. Great game. Not much you can do but move on, players and coaches said.
"We're still playing pretty good," said Wizards guard Jerry Stackhouse, who had 22 points. "We just ran into a player that was unstoppable."
"It came to a point where there was a curiosity factor. Was he going to hit 80?" Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. "I'm sure it went through his head."
The Wizards close out their six-game, Western Conference road trip Sunday against the Denver Nuggets, who are bound for the draft lottery but who have played better lately. A victory would push Washington to 3-3 on the trip and provide at least a half-game edge over the Milwaukee Bucks for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Wizards may be ready to move past Bryant's riveting performance, but it will be remembered for some time. In his final meeting against his idol, Michael Jordan, Bryant blistered Washington for 42 first-half points to break Elgin Baylor's 43-year-old franchise record (37) for points in a half.
At one point, Bryant, who opened the game limping, strung together 23 straight points to give the Lakers a 38-33 lead in the second quarter. Fifteen points came on three-pointers from well beyond the arc with hands in his face. Only one basket in that stretch came on a layup. None were dunks.
Bryant's final stats: 15 of 29, 9 of 13 from three-point range, 16 of 18 from the foul line.
"Because this is my last game it's easy for people to say I put the torch in his hand," Jordan said. "He definitely has a share of the torch but there's a lot of other guys who I think are going to have to carry that. He will continue to evolve but it's tough for one guy to carry the torch. I don't think I carried the torch by myself."
Jordan never was matched against Bryant. However, Stackhouse, Tyronn Lue, Bryon Russell and Bobby Simmons all had a chance against Bryant. Jordan said the strategy was for whoever was guarding Bryant to steer him to a help defender and force him to shoot from outside. Bryant proved all tactics futile, especially because he was taking shots from so far away and so early in the offense.
"This is a performance I've never seen before, not even on PlayStation," said Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal (26 points, 13 rebounds).
At the team's Friday morning shoot-around, Jackson, who coached Jordan to six NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s, told Bryant he had permission to fire away.
"The challenge I accepted was Phil coming to me this morning and telling me to be more assertive offensively," said Bryant, trying to play down his last meeting against Jordan. "I geared my mind toward coming out and attacking."
This was not the first time on this trip one player -- or a tandem -- has scorched the Wizards. Golden State guard Gilbert Arenas scored a career-high 41 points on Washington and was backed up by Antawn Jamison, who added 37 points, in the Warriors' 113-107 victory over the Wizards.
Although the Wizards knew Bryant was capable of such numbers, they had prepared for the Lakers to pound the ball inside to O'Neal, who had averaged 37.5 points over the previous four games. Once Bryant got going, there was little that could be done except, "Keep him on the perimeter and hope that he gets cold," Jordan said.