By Mark Medina
Tribune News Service
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. -- The ball sank into the net, capping off a difficult Kobe Bryant shot that yielded extraordinary implications.
Bryant's 26-foot 3-point field goal with 1:02 remaining all but secured the Lakers' 100-94 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday at Target Center.
The ball sank into the net, capping off an ordinary Bryant shot that still proved significant enough to stop the game entirely.
The Lakers' star hit a pair of free throws with 5:24 left in the second quarter, which propelled Bryant ahead of Michael Jordan for third place on the NBA's all-time scoring list.
"That's the most important thing to me, playing for the respect of the greats," Bryant said, "and feeling I'm a part of that culture and part of that brotherhood."
Each milestone happened in a bizarre game that featured the Lakers (8-16) securing their season's first three-game winning streak after nearly coughing up a 10-point cushion through five leads and five ties. Bryant also posted a team-leading 26 points albeit on 7-of-20 shooting and two turnovers in 35 minutes. Yet, as Bryant has shown throughout his 19-year career, he somehow elevates on top amid dire circumstances.
"You look at all the great players, they like the ball in their hands with the game in doubt to make a play," Lakers coach Byron Scott said. "They live for that. When he pulled up, I wasn't surprised one bit."
Bryant and Scott seemed surprised, however, on how the Lakers' star eclipsed Jordan's 32,692 career points.
Scott predicted beforehand that Bryant would reach the milestone after making a "patented fallaway." That shot represented both Bryant's go-to move and one he emulated from Jordan, who represented one of his many idols growing up. But with 5:39 left in the second quarter, Bryant's 12-foot fadeaway attempt that would have surpassed Jordan rimmed out. On the next possession, Bryant drew a foul on Timberwolves guard and former UCLA product Zach LaVine and sank both foul shots.
"I was hoping to get a rhythm going," Bryant said about his missed fadeaway. "It was a tough start for me and my legs weren't into it."