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Bryant cracks record at MSG

KOBE Bryant scored a season-high 61 points to lift the Los Angeles Lakers to a 126-117 victory over the New York Knicks on Monday in New York.

The points total was the most by an NBA player this season and broke the previous Madison Square Garden record of 60 by former Knicks standout Bernard King.

Bryant also eclipsed Michael Jordan's record for the most points by an opponent in MSG. Jordan finished with 55 points for the Chicago Bulls in a 1995 game.

"It's a blessing to do what you love and have moments like this," Bryant said after registering his fifth 60-point game.

Playing to the chants of "MVP," the Lakers' All-Star guard hit 19 of 31 from the floor and all 20 free throws.

"These are nights when Kobe's on fire," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "He burns hot."

The Knicks noticed that from the beginning.

"First time he stepped on the court, he didn't say nothing," the Knicks' Nate Robinson said. "He usually says 'Hi,' but today he was focused, in the zone. So we knew something was up."

Bryant, who scored a career-high 81 points against the Toronto Raptors in 2006, had 18 points in the first quarter, 34 by halftime and added 12 more in the third.

Bryant passed Jordan's mark by hitting three free throws with 3:56 to play. He topped 60 points with 2:33 remaining in the game.

The victory came against a backdrop of disappointment for the visitors, who announced a few hours before the game that center Andrew Bynum would be out for eight to 12 weeks with a torn ligament in his right knee.

Pau Gasol, who shifted to center for the Lakers (38-9), added 31 points and 14 rebounds, and reserve Trevor Ariza was the only other Laker in double figures with 13.

Al Harrington paced the Knicks (21-26) with 24 points, David Lee had 22 points and 12 rebounds and Wilson Chandler scored 20 points.

In other games, it was: Trail Blazers 97, Hornets 89; Mavericks 105, Magic 95; Grizzlies 113, Wizards 97; Heat 119, Clippers 95; Suns 129, Kings 81; Jazz 105, Bobcats 86; and Spurs 110, Warriors 105, OT.

In New Orleans, LaMarcus Aldridge scored 22 points, as Portland overcame a 17-point deficit - after New Orleans guard Chris Paul was injured - for its fifth straight victory.

Paul left the game late in the third quarter with a strained right groin, the first action he has missed all season. He had 12 points and 13 assists.

The Hornets led 72-55 when Paul left the game. Portland then outscored New Orleans 26-7 during the next seven minutes, with Jerryd Bayless scoring 13 of his 19 points during the decisive surge.

In Orlando, Florida, Dirk Nowitzki had 29 points and six rebounds and Jason Terry had 23 points as Dallas beat Orlando for its third straight win.

Josh Howard and Jason Kidd added 13 apiece for the Mavericks, who held Orlando to 3-for-20 shooting from 3-point range.

Dwight Howard had 35 points and 11 rebounds, and Hedo Turkoglu scored 18 as the Magic ended their three-game winning streak.

But that wasn't the worst news of the night for Orlando.

In Washington, rookie O.J. Mayo matched his career high with 33 points to lead Memphis past Washington for its first win in nearly a month.

Rudy Gay scored 23 and Marc Gasol added 22 points and 11 rebounds for Memphis, which ended a 12-game losing streak - the team's longest since dropping 13 in a row to start the 2002-03 season. The Grizzlies had not won since beating Dallas 102-82 Jan. 4.


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