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Kobe Bryant scored 19 points and had 14 assists despite a foot injury in the Lakers' 103-98 victory over the Kings on Saturday. Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press
Kobe Bryant passed Wilt Chamberlain for fourth place on the NBA's scoring list, then put on one of the best passing performances of his storied career.
Bryant scored 19 points and tied a season high with 14 assists despite a nagging left foot injury, and the Los Angeles Lakers kept pace for the Western Conference's final playoff spot by outlasting the Sacramento Kings 103-98 on Saturday night.
"My foot's (messed) up, but other than that, I feel great," he said, chuckling.
Bryant added nine rebounds and facilitated the Lakers' offense for 47 minutes, 37 seconds after Steve Nash exited early in the first quarter with a recurring right hamstring injury. He helped Los Angeles tie a season low with seven turnovers.
"I thought that was key - those 23 seconds. Otherwise he would've been tired," coach Mike D'Antoni said, sarcastically. "He just looked at me and said, 'I'm not coming out tonight.' Sounds good to me."
With Bryant engineering the offense, Los Angeles showed some of its best ball movement of the season.
Dwight Howard had 24 points and 15 rebounds, Pau Gasol added 12 points and 10 assists and three others scored in double figures for the Lakers (38-36), who stayed even with Utah (38-36) for the eighth and final playoff seed. Los Angeles hosts 10th-place Dallas (36-37) in a critical tilt on Tuesday.
Even with the pressure of a playoff race, Bryant was all smiles in a cramped quarter of Sacramento's visiting locker room. He had met Chamberlain when he was about 8 years old in Philadelphia and long held the Lakers legend in higher esteem than some milestones he's reached because of the franchise connection.
(China Daily 04/01/2013 page24)