ATLANTA, March 9 – Kobe Bryant scored 26 points, passing Moses Malone to stand sixth on the NBA all-time scoring list, and the reigning champion Los Angeles Lakers beat Atlanta 101-87 on Tuesday.
Bryant, a 13-time All-Star who has won five NBA titles in the past 10 seasons, passed Malone’s total of 27,409 with three free throws 2:05 before the end of the second quarter and finished the game 14 points ahead of Malone.
"I’m just very fortunate, that’s all," Bryant said.
Bryant has passed six NBA legends on the career scoring list this season, including John Havlicek, Dominique Wilkins, Oscar Robertson, Hakeem Olajuwon and Elvin Hayes only one week ago.
"Kobe is going to get his shots," said Hawks standout Joe Johnson. "We all knew we had to try to limit guys around him. The guys around him played big."
Andrew Bynum added 16 points and 16 rebounds while Spain’s Paul Gasol had 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Lakers, who stretched their win streak to eight games in a row and improved to 46-19, third overall in the Western Conference.
"It’s not necessarily that we’re winning games, but how we’re winning them," Bryant said. "We’re really playing well. We’re not making too many mistakes."
The Lakers led 57-49 at half-time and stretched the edge to 79-57 late in the third period. Atlanta ran off nine points in a row to pull within 90-82 before the Lakers ran off eight in a row, including a Bryant 3-pointer with 3:22 to play to help seal the victory.
"He’s very unique," said Hawks coach Larry Drew, who was an assistant coach for the Lakers when Bryant debuted there in 1996. "I was in L.A. when we traded for him, and you saw the talent.
"It was a matter of understanding and picking his spots and learning to play the game on the NBA level. And he did that. He’s a phenomenal player."
Al Horford scored 17 points and Josh Smith added 16 for the Hawks, who suffered their fourth loss in their past five games.
"We’re making people take contested shots and taking them out of areas they’re comfortable in," Bryant said.