Reporting from Philadelphia — A listless game between the Lakers and 76ers on a cold Friday night became a showdown between Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson.
Bryant and Iverson raised the temperature of the game in the second half, the two of them taking the game over, giving the crowd inside Philadelphia's Wachovia Center something to get excited about.
The Lakers pulled out the victory, 99-91, because Bryant had 22 of his 24 points in the second half and because he has a better supporting cast.
Iverson had 21 of his season-high 23 points in the second half.
"It was like back in the day," Bryant said. "It was exciting to see him get hot like that and for me to switch over and guard him. It was like 2001 all over again."
Pau Gasol did his thing, scoring 19 points, collecting 10 rebounds and handing out a team-high five assists. Ron Artest came alive, scoring 18 points, including two late three-point shots, and getting three steals.
When Bryant injured his ankle early in the third quarter, he seemed infused with more energy and it pushed him closer to a franchise scoring mark held by a Lakers legend.
Bryant rolled his left ankle after he collided with Elton Brand. He grabbed his left knee and signaled for a timeout. Bryant returned to the game and was even more aggressive, scoring 14 points in the quarter.
Bryant (25,145 points) is 47 points shy of tying the Lakers' all-time mark held by Jerry West (25,192). Additionally, when Bryant passes West, he'll move to 14th on the NBA's all-time list.
"The ankle is sore right now," Bryant said. "I'm just glad it's not the knee. The knee was sore then I walked it off and it felt fine. The ankle just kept getting stiffer and stiffer. It's pretty sore right now."
Bryant scored 12 consecutive Lakers points from the end of the third quarter to the start of the fourth, pushing a three-point lead to a 10-point edge.
"He goes out there night in and night out and plays the same way every night," Iverson, a controversial All-Star choice, said about Bryant. "It is indicative of everything that he has accomplished in his career."
Bryant even asked to defend Iverson in the fourth after the diminutive guard scored 15 points in the third.
"He got hot and the crowd got behind him," Bryant said about Iverson, who scored six points in the fourth. "It was like, 'this will be a fun challenge, step up and guard him.' Give the people what they want to see."
Because Bryant did, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson (532 wins) is one victory short of Pat Riley's all-time franchise regular-season record.
When Bryant was introduced for the starting lineup, he received a loud number of boos, just as he always does when he plays in Philadelphia.
Bryant grew up about 30 minutes outside of Philadelphia, attending Lower Merion High. He visited the school Thursday, talking to friends and old teachers.
For Bryant, who made 10 of 22 shots, it was a memorable moment.
"Actually tonight's game was the first game I actually got goose bumps when they said 'from Lower Merion High School,' " the 31-year-old Bryant said. "That was the first time, I think, because as you get older, you start to become more and more nostalgic . . . just because you're older.
"You start reminiscing on where everything started. It just kind of creeps in a little bit to you. It got to me a little bit."
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