Lakers guard Kobe Bryant works against the tight defense of Clippers forward… (Harry How / Getty Images )
The Lakers appeared to be finished, and so did Kobe Bryant's streak of consecutive 40-point games.
At least that's the way it looked at halftime Saturday night, when the Lakers trailed the Clippers by double digits and Bryant had pleased only the red-and-blue-clad fans inside Staples Center by scoring 11 points on three-for-12 shooting.
Defiant as always, Bryant wasn't ready to concede anything.
"I just had to get it going," the Lakers shooting guard would say later. "I mean, we were struggling. It seemed like we were kind of dead in the water and I didn't get us off to a good start at all. I kind of took the responsibility to try and generate some energy and get us back in the game."
It took Bryant only 15 seconds into the third quarter to rouse the pockets of Lakers fans inside the arena their team shares with the Clippers.
Bryant received a pass from Derek Fisher and made a 22-foot jumper. Then came a reverse layup, followed later in the quarter by a three-pointer and another long jumper.
The Lakers' deficit was cut to single digits and Bryant was just getting started. He made five consecutive free throws and a dunk that sparked such a roar that it suddenly felt like a Lakers home game.
A few minutes later, Bryant blocked a Randy Foye jumper and then drew a foul from Chris Paul, making one of two free throws. He capped his breathless play with a three-pointer, and suddenly the Lakers trailed only 74-72.
Bryant scored 21 points in the quarter, making six of 10 shots, on the way to finishing with 42 points during the Lakers' eventual 102-94 defeat. Bryant's fourth consecutive game with at least 40 points meant little to him in a loss, even though he continues to thrive while playing with a torn ligament in his right wrist.
"I really don't care too much about it," Bryant said of the scoring streak, his longest since he collected at least 40 points in five consecutive games in March 2007. "We've been winning those games and tonight we dropped one."
The Clippers tried a variety of defenders on Bryant, starting with small forward Caron Butler and later switching to guard Chauncey Billups, small forward Ryan Gomes and guard Randy Foye. They were able to stay with him at times, though not so much in the third quarter.
"I thought he had some decent looks in the first half and they just didn't go down," Lakers Coach Mike Brown said of Bryant. "He's a guy that hits tough shots and he hit some in the second half that he took and missed in the first half."
Saturday marked the second game in which Bryant had played extensively alongside rookie point guard Darius Morris, whose minutes have increased significantly since Steve Blake suffered a rib cartilage injury on Wednesday. Having the veteran Bryant on the floor with him has helped ease Morris' increased workload.
"Whenever his jump shot is on, he can get whatever he wants whenever," Morris said of Bryant. "That's the key thing is his jump shot, even with his wrist hurting."
Bryant said the formula for his sustained scoring spree is simple.
"I'm just getting the ball in spots to be effective and I'm just making my mid-range jumpers," he said.
Bryant has made it seem so effortless that his latest big number caught even his coach by surprise.
"I didn't know he had 42," Brown said, "until I looked at the box score."