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Friday, Dec. 7, 2012

Bryant becomes fifth to reach 30,000-point milestone


NEW ORLEANS — Before Kobe Bryant had even turned in his latest dominant performance, NBA commissioner David Stern sought him out to offer a congratulatory hand shake for the extraordinary scoring milestone the Lakers star was about to surpass.

News photo
Kobe system: Kobe Bryant dunks on Wednesday. The Lakers star eclipsed 30,000 career points during a win over the Hornets. AP

Stern assumed Bryant would score the 13 points he needed to become only the fifth player in NBA history to reach 30,000, and who wouldn't?

Bryant had 17 points by halftime, finished with 29, and Los Angeles snapped a two-game skid with a 103-87 victory over the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday night.

"He just congratulated me and told me I was one of the best competitors that he's seen in this game and I really appreciated that," Bryant said of his pregame exchange with Stern.

Now Bryant in is elite company. The only other players to score more than 30,000 are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain.

"It's pretty awesome," Bryant said. "These are players I respect tremendously and obviously grew up idolizing and watching and learned a great deal from."

When Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni was asked before tipoff about Bryant's impending milestone, the coach joked, "That just means he is old."

In fact, at 34, Bryant is younger than the other four were when they hit the mark, but Bryant also turned pro at 18, and is in his 17th season.

"Honestly, I don't know why I'm still working as hard as I am after 17 years," Bryant said. "I enjoy what I do. I think that's the thing that I'm most proud of: every year, every day working hard at it. It's a lot of years, a lot of work."

Bryant eclipsed the scoring milestone with a short jumper late in the first half that was perhaps the least spectacular of his baskets, which included the usual array of soaring dunks, demoralizing transition 3-pointers and turnaround, off-balance jumpers.

Dwight Howard added 18 points and five blocked shots for the Lakers, who trailed 48-47 at halftime but seized control with a 13-0 run to open the third quarter.

Ryan Anderson scored 31, hitting 5 of 8 3-pointers for the Hornets, who were playing their ninth straight game without top overall draft choice Anthony Davis. Greivis Vasquez added 16 points, while Robin Lopez scored 15 points and blocked five shots.

Anderson said Bryant "deserves all the recognition that he gets."

"He's a special guy to play against. Unfortunately, we didn't get the win," Anderson added. "I would have liked him to get the 30,000, but for us to get the win."

Knicks 100, Bobcats 98

In Charlotte, J.R. Smith hit a fallaway jumper from the left wing as time expired to give New York a win over the Bobcats.

Spurs 110, Bucks 99

In San Antonio, Tony Parker and Gary Neal each scored 22 points, and the Spurs had a season-high 53 rebounds.

Pacers 99, Trail Blazers 92

In Indianapolis, Paul George scored 22 points and George Hill added 18 to help Indiana beat Portland.

Celtics 104, Timberwolves 94

In Boston, Kevin Garnett had 18 points and 10 rebounds and remained unbeaten against his former team.

Warriors 104, Pistons 97

In Auburn Hills, Michigan, Klay Thompson scored 19 of his 27 points in the third quarter to help Golden State pull away to beat Detroit.

Hawks 108, Nuggets 104

In Atlanta, Josh Smith's steal, jam and free throw with 31 seconds remaining extended the Hawks' lead and the hosts held on to beat Denver.

Bulls 95, Cavaliers 85

In Cleveland, Marco Belinelli scored a season-high 23 points, Luol Deng added 22 and Chicago took control early.

Jazz 87, Magic 81

In Salt Lake City, Al Jefferson scored a season-high 31 points and grabbed 15 rebounds to lead Utah over Orlando.

Clippers 112, Mavericks 90

In Los Angeles, Blake Griffin had 19 points and 13 rebounds, and Chris Paul added 14 points and 13 assists, propelling the hosts over Dallas for their fourth straight victory.

Jamal Crawford added 20 points for the Clippers

Kings 107, Raptors 100

In Sacramento, DeMarcus Cousins had 25 points and 13 rebounds to help the Kings beat Toronto for only their third win in the last 12 games.

Kyle Lowry scored 29 of his 34 points in the second half for the Raptors.

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