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The NBA Scoring Race Heats Up

The NBA has three solid story lines: The Miami Heat trying to chase down the Washington Wizards in the Southeast Division, the Dallas Mavericks' amazing hold on the NBA's best record, and the battle for the eighth spot in both divisions. But don't overlook the NBA scoring race after Kobe Bryant's 115-point barrage against Portland and Minnesota.

With his 65-point game against Portland, followed by his 50-point game against Minnesota, Bryant raised his average to 30.0 through 62 games. It also allowed him to pass Carmelo Anthony for the scoring lead by just 0.2 points. The top four scorers in the league - Bryant, Anthony, Gilbert Arenas and Dwyane Wade are separated by just 1.2 points per game.

For most of the season, it appeared Anthony would run away with the scoring title. But with the Nuggets' addition of fellow scorer Allen Iverson, Coach George Karl's recent criticism that Anthony is nothing more than a scorer, and Bryant's surge, Anthony has fallen into second place for the first time since November, when he trailed Iverson by percentage points.

Anthony averaged 31.6 points at the time of his 15-game suspension, and he returned as if he had no other purpose but to win the scoring title until Karl threatened to benched him and wondered if "he is going to get it." Since that diatribe, Anthony has failed to score more than 29 points in his past six games and is averaging just 25.1 points. He's probably not going to complain because the Nuggets (33-31) have gone 5-2 (Anthony missed a game, a loss at Golden State, to witness the birth of his son) and are closing in on Bryant's Lakers (35-32) for the sixth seed in the Western Conference.

Bryant has been on sizzling tear in March, averaging 39 points in eight games (he missed one game, a loss at Milwaukee, serving a one-game suspension for elbowing Marko Jaric), but the Lakers have been reeling. Bryant cruised to the scoring title last season, averaging 35 points per game, but after being praised for his unselfish play in the first half of the season, his past two games have led to two rather amusing takes - one from Bryant and another from L.A. Times columnist T.J. Simers.

The funniest part of the scoring race is how Wade, who hasn't played since Feb. 21, has managed to move up and down the rankings. Wade has moved above Arenas, who had a terrible shooting slump in February, and slipped below Arenas to fourth, where Wade currently resides. Wade's return remains uncertain, but it will be hard to fathom him having a serious run of 30-point games in the final six or seven games of the season while recovering from a dislocated left shoulder.

If Anthony and Bryant both maintain their averages, Arenas would need to average about 34.5 points a game in the Wizards' final 18 to take the crown from his childhood hero. It's hard to imagine that Anthony or Bryant won't increase their scoring averages the rest of the way and that Arenas will be able to play at a higher level than December, when he averaged 34.1 for the month. But who's going to win it?

By Michael Lee  |  March 20, 2007; 10:04 AM ET
 
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Comments

I REALLY wanted to give Mike a hard time here for his "Kobe love" but he's probably going to get it.

The Lakers rely entirely on him and he takes way more shots then anyone else mentioned so my bet would be on Kobe as well.

Dirk is going to win MVP though, I told you one game does not a season make Mr. Mike. :)

- Ray

Posted by: Ray | March 20, 2007 10:44 AM | Report abuse

Aren't the Lakers starting to get everyone back? Once they knock the rust off, don't you think the Lakers and Kobe will go back to sharing the ball more.

Posted by: George Templeton | March 20, 2007 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Interesting thing about scoring titles and winning basketball. There have been few players that have been able to win a scoring title and lead his team to first place in their conference or division.
Even fewer that can lead their team through the playoffs to win a title and a scoring title the same year. Jordon is the most obvious player that did it multible times. I'm not sure how many others there have been, not many that I can think of.
Kobe is a great player, I still wonder if he'll be able to get another title. If he can't, his role in the break up of the Lakers after the third title in their run will cement his image as a selfish, me first player.
What was that quote of his about he couldn't get used to a guy chucking up that many shots after Gil scored 60?
Kobe will win the scoring title because it means more to him than the other guys, just like winning an Allstar MVP. And because his supporting cast is depleted and he feels that he's got the Green Light to shoot.
All and all you've got to look at the Wiz's record and Gil's position in the scoring race and conclude it's a pretty rare combination.

Posted by: GM | March 20, 2007 12:02 PM | Report abuse

It'd be interesting to know that out of the top 4 scorers right now, who's got more bonus $$$$ at stake incentive-wise with their contract to win the scoring title.

Posted by: DC Man88 | March 20, 2007 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Mike, Thanks for an interesting article.

The majority of the Lakers rookie roster has been injured for the majority of the season. The fact that most of them are rookies & they've made it this far is pretty amazing but then they do have Dr. Phil.

Kobe's been a stand-up guy do for his team. Obviously, he really can't carry it all but he's certainly trying but I do agree with George T., once the others come back, he will have to pass the ball off more. So his numbers will obviously go down.

Speaking of Denver having 2 all star power shooters yet they are coming up short. Sounds like team chemistry is out of balance or something.

They were exciting the first few games - they looked like they were having fun but now I don't see it as such fun. Losing with 2 power players & still fighting to get past the Hornets or Portland isn't funny. If Carmelo gets it - I'd see as tainted cuz his darn team can't get out the basement. What does that say about him? Selfish player just rackin up stats? No team play? No team chemistry?

Re: Wade. I thought they caught the one man(smile)in the last Fugitive movie?

Posted by: Robin | March 20, 2007 12:30 PM | Report abuse

I couldn't care less if Kobe or Carmelo or DWade or even Gilbert wins the scoring title. I just want the Wizards to win!!

* on a side note it would be nice to see Gil crack the top ten on the assist leaderboard though.

Posted by: Frank | March 20, 2007 12:37 PM | Report abuse

sorry, I left out the one armed man, Dr.Kimble in the Fugitive.(LOL)

I beg to differe with you.

If his team isn't winning what difference does it make? Its supposed to be a team sport. KG has struggled for years without a team around him and doesn't get to crack anything.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 20, 2007 12:55 PM | Report abuse

Who did you say, Arenas? Crack what for assists? Are you joking? The guy knew nothing about assists til Steve Nash & company came to town & took him to school on the pick n roll and ball movement.
He & EJ sat up & took notice. They been practicin since. Somebody on here just said they were amazed he got 11 asists the other day. This is the end of the season - not the beginning when all he did was rack of stats for himself.

Asists??? Ya gotta be joking


Posted by: Anonymous | March 20, 2007 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Good thing Kobe has a conscience. Quality shots, my man.

Posted by: Gack | March 20, 2007 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Here's what Kobe brings to the table:

3-time NBA Champion
9-time All-Star
8-time All-NBA Selection
6-time All-Defensive Selection
2-time NBA All-Star Game MVP
1997 NBA Slam Dunk Champion
1996 Naismith Prep Player of the Year

Here's Gilby:

3-time NBA All-Star: 2005, 2006, 2007
2-time All-NBA:
Third Team: 2005, 2006
NBA Most Improved Player Award: 2003
2003 All-Star Rookie/Sophomore Game MVP: 2003
NBA All-Rookie First Team: 2002

I think Kobe gets a "bit" more leeway than Agent Gilby in what he wants to do with the ball.

Posted by: DC Man88 | March 20, 2007 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Carmelo was definitly padding his scoring stats with Karl's help early in the season. I was at the game when the Wiz blew them out at Verizon and Carmelo was the only starter on the floor from either team still putting up most every shot in garbage time.
Couple of nights later he was on the floor when the big fight broke out with Knicks and IT claimed they were running up the score. The funny thing was my son had said to me at the Wiz game, "If Carmelo keeps staying out there and putting points up in garbage time somebody's going to start a fight with these guys".

Posted by: GM | March 20, 2007 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Don't get all worked over Gil's assists or the fact that he's not a "pure" point guard. Frist off, its an unrealistic expectation, since he's never actually been asked to play as a pure PG, either in college or the pros. Secondly, its an overrated position/statistic. Pure PGs and big assist totals don't really translate to championships. Quick who can guess when the last time the league assist leader was also NBA champ? You have to go back 20 years, to the 86-87 Lakers with Magic. The only other "pure" PG to win since then is Avery Johnson with the '99 Spurs.

So keep firing, Gil. Hibatchi!

Posted by: Aaron (DC) | March 20, 2007 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Good point Aaron, point gaurds can pad assist totals just like scorers can pad point totals if that's their goal.
And if you don't have a great post up scorer to go to sometimes you have to make the pass before the assist to make your offense click.
Rodman used to throw the ball up on the backboard and bounce it to himself to get an extra rebound. My one Grandfather used to say, "if figures never lie, how come liars love to figure?"
Too often team play gets left in the dust when anyone is competing for an individual title no matter what it is.

Posted by: GM | March 20, 2007 3:04 PM | Report abuse

Gilby's assist average being near the top in the league is definitely not as important as the team playing team ball and the guys sharing the ball. When you start playing helter skelter ball, one on one ball, your team will not get far.

Gilby will never be a playmaker and or set up PG. The important thing for him is not to take bad shots and to pass to the open man when he's doubled. That would make a world of difference for this team because that would make the defenses play him straight up.

Posted by: DC Man88 | March 20, 2007 3:09 PM | Report abuse

True points about Arenas, but it seems to me that when he's getting a lot of assists, the Wizards roll. Maybe when I have time I'll look into the Wiz' winning percentage when he has 8 or more assists. When the Wiz have few assists, they usually lose. Of course, that's true of most teams as well.

Posted by: Keithinator | March 20, 2007 3:43 PM | Report abuse

My quick count shows the Wiz at 11-3 when Gil has 8 or more assists.

Posted by: Keithinator | March 20, 2007 4:12 PM | Report abuse

UH, I DON'T THINK ANYBODY ANSWERED MICHAEL'S QUESTION YET.

WHO DO YOU THINK WILL WIN?

THANKS MIKE FOR TAKING THIS BLOG TO ANOTHER LEVEL. IT MAKES YOU THINK BEYOND D.C. & THE WIZARDS.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 20, 2007 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Kobe will win it because the Lakers need him to. In the last two games they've scored 225 points. Kobe's scored 115 of those. The team needs him to assert him self now, so the Nurturing Kobe who keeps all othe other guys' confidence up and make sure they stay involved makes way for Kobe the Assassin.

Posted by: Aaron (DC) | March 20, 2007 4:27 PM | Report abuse

I agree it will be Kobe. That's what I said earlier today, he'll win because it means more to him and their roster is depleted and he's got the green light right now.
Wonder if the Zen Master will be able to get him back to team ball when they get their guys healthy or if Kobe will want to keep "chucking em up" in the playoffs when the bright lights are on.

Posted by: GM | March 20, 2007 4:49 PM | Report abuse

It's kind of like what Kobe said about Gil after Gil lit the Lakers up for 60: "Some of the shots he took tonight, you miss those, and they're just terrible shots. Awful. You make them and they're unbelievable shots." If Kobe keeps filling up the net, and the Lakers gets on a winning streak, he'll keep shooting.

Kobe's obviously got the skills to make it happen, and he's hot right now. My guess is they win more games than they lose, Phil continues to give him the green light, and Kobe ends up with the title.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 20, 2007 5:33 PM | Report abuse

It will be Kobe who wins. And by the way Keithinator when the Wizards have high assist totals, they don't just win, they usually win going away.

Posted by: George Templeton | March 20, 2007 8:23 PM | Report abuse

what team is going to be the 5th seed in the west and east and what team is going to be the 6th seed in the west and the east

Posted by: KB | March 26, 2007 7:55 PM | Report abuse

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