Posted February 06, 2012 on AP on Fox
It may be somewhat surprising the Los Angeles Lakers aren't in first place. It's much more stunning the Philadelphia 76ers are. Kobe Bryant would like to change the Lakers' status soon, but improvement on the road is needed. Bryant gets a chance to climb the NBA's all-time scoring list while trying to help the Lakers bounce back from another road defeat as they face the 76ers on Monday night. Los Angeles (14-10) has won the Pacific Division four consecutive seasons, winning two NBA titles and making a third finals appearance in that span. Things aren't going as smoothly in 2011-12, as the Lakers are second in the division, 1 1/2 games back of the Los Angeles Clippers. Their 3-8 road record is one of the reasons for that gap, and those struggles continued with a 96-87 loss at Utah on Saturday. "We just have to be patient, just be calm. We've been in this situation before," Bryant said after scoring 26 points. Los Angeles has split the first two of this season-high six-game road trip, and will have to make do without Mike Brown on Monday. The league's 2009 coach of the year was suspended one game for making contact with an official while picking up two technicals in the fourth quarter against the Jazz. Former 76ers assistant John Kuester will coach the team in Philadelphia. Bryant leads the NBA with 29.4 points per game, an increase of 4.1 points from last season. The All-Star guard is also 24 points shy of passing former Lakers teammate Shaquille O'Neal (28,596) for fifth on the league's all-time scoring list, and he's averaged 25.0 points in helping the Lakers win nine of the last 11 versus the 76ers (17-7). Bryant, though, scored just nine in his last visit to Philadelphia on Dec. 17, 2010, but Los Angeles overcame that to win 93-81. He was much better at home Dec. 31, 2010, scoring 33 points to power a 102-98 win and sweep of the season series. The Sixers, however, might be the most improved team in the NBA this season. They're the surprising leaders in the Atlantic Division after finishing .500 last season and being eliminated in five games by Miami in the opening round of the playoffs. Philadelphia also leads the Eastern Conference with a 12-3 home record despite a 99-79 defeat there to the Heat on Friday. The 76ers regrouped a day later by winning 98-87 at Atlanta, getting their fifth victory in six overall games. They're also proving to be very balanced offensively, and that was clear against the Hawks. Six players - five reserves - reached double-digit points with rookie backup forward-center Nikola Vucevic leading the way with a season-high 15. He averages 5.5 points. "That's what you've got to have," center Spencer Hawes said. "That's the measure of teams that are able to thrive in this kind of setup." Philadelphia may need Vucevic and the rest of the bench to continue contributing, as Elton Brand's status is unknown after he sat out Saturday's win with a sprained right thumb. The forward is averaging 10.1 points and 6.7 rebounds. Hawes believes the compressed schedule due to the lockout is one reason the Sixers are getting balanced scoring. Six players are averaging at least 10.0 points, with Louis Williams leading the way at 15.1 points per game. "This season is going to be weird like that." said Hawes, who is averaging 10.7 points and 8.5 boards. "There's going to be different guys every night."

Is Kobe the greatest Laker of all time? Yes he is

When the inevitability of Kobe Bryant moving into fifth place on the NBA's all-time scoring list became reality this week, he was thankful, yet not satisfied. "It would be an understatement to say it's a huge honor," Bryant said after scoring 28 points Monday night in his native Philadelphia to pass former teammate and sometimes rival Shaquille O'Neal with 28...

Kobe Bryant: Lakers Must Play ‘Near-Perfect Basketball’ to Contend

Despite his heroics in the first half of last night’s game in Philly, Kobe Bryant could not pull out a win for the Lakers. While claiming that he still believes they can challenge for an NBA title, Bryant conceded that his team would have to play unblemished ball to do so. (Right. Good luck with that.) From the Daily News: “Kobe Bryant said Monday he believes the Lakers have...

Kobe Bryant passes Shaquille O'Neal on NBA all-time scoring list

O'Neal congratulates Bryant via Twitter after the Lakers guard takes over the fifth spot on the scoring list with a long jump shot in the second quarter of a 95-90 loss to Philadelphia.Maybe Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal will eventually look back on what could have been accomplished. For now, the weird, cautious chasm continues between two of the best in Lakers history.

Kobe still not sorry for '01 talk about Philly

Kobe Bryant won't apologize for saying he wanted to demolish the 76ers in the 2001 Finals.

Kobe passes Shaq for fifth place on scoring list

Kobe Bryant passed his Shaquille O'Neal for fifth place on the NBA's all-time scoring list in the second quarter of the Lakers' game against the 76ers.

Kobe's historic night spoiled as 76ers top Lakers

Lou Williams nailed the go-ahead 3-pointer, scored 14 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter, and spoiled Kobe Bryant's record-setting night while leading the Philadelphia 76ers to 95-90 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday night.
NBA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.