Los Angeles Lakers' Bryant chews on his jersey during NBA game in Los Angeles

Can Kobe keep scoring like this? Is it good for the Lakers?

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It’s the question Lakers fans are asking Thursday — can Kobe Bryant sustain this?

He scored 48 against the Suns Tuesday and 40 against the Jazz and long-time nemesis Raja Bell on Wednesday. Kobe now leads the NBA averaging 30.3 points per game. He is using nearly 40 percent of the Lakers possessions when he is on the floor and is maintaining shooting percentages right at what he has done the past few years. What torn ligament in his wrist? His legs have a bounce and quickness we have not seen in years.

If you doubt Kobe can maintain this pace you do so at your own risk. He can. He’s driven by the motivation for an MVP or to prove the hoard of critics out there. And when Kobe is motivated like this he can accomplish just about anything on a basketball court. Look at what Kobe said after Wednesday’s game, via Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register.

“I scored back-to-back 40’s with a (bleeped)-up wrist,” Bryant said, his eyes still gleaming at the just-completed achievement. “What does it matter if it’s still (bleeped)-up in the playoffs?”

Kobe also says his wrist is healing, getting stronger. Sustainability is not the question Lakers fans should be asking. Rather…

Can the Lakers win long term with Kobe scoring like this?

The Lakers were struggling adapting to new coach Mike Brown’s ways and Kobe did what Kobe does — he took on more of the burden himself. He’s scoring at a rate we haven’t seen in five years, back when he had to cover for Smush Parker and Kwame Brown.

But now he has arguably the most skilled front line in the NBA to help carry that burden with Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.

Come the playoffs, teams that rely on one guy to score 40 a game don’t usually last long. They don’t win titles. Teams that get scoring from several sources — exploiting the best mismatch — do win. The Lakers can be that team. Right now they are not, and that’s fine against Phoenix and Utah in January. But if Bynum and Gasol are reduced to spectators for too long they will disengage.

If the Lakers are playing the same ball they are right now come March and April, that should worry Lakers fans. Because no doubt Kobe can sustain this pace that long if he wants to.

LeBron James says he doesn’t see Cavaliers-Warriors as rivalry

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 25: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers passes while under pressure from Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors during the first half at Quicken Loans Arena on December 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Tyronn Lue said Cavaliers-Warriors could eventually match Celtics-Lakers as a rivalry.

First, if you ask LeBron James, Cleveland-Golden State would have to become a rivalry at all.

LeBron, via Joe Vardon Cleveland.com:

“We don’t look at it as a rival,” James said. “They’re a great team. They’ve been the best team the last couple years, last three years.”

“It’s just the next game, it’s Golden State,” James said. “They’re a helluva team, like I said the best team in the league and they’ve been that way the last three years, four years, however long it’s been, I’m not quite sure. But, listen, you guys know, we don’t put all our eggs in one basket for one game.”

Of course, Cavaliers-Warriors is a rivalry. These teams have met in the last two NBA Finals, played each other with relentless intensity, talked plenty of trash and remained elite.

LeBron just doesn’t want the Cavs to become comfortable. They’ve beat Golden State in four straight games – the last three of the 2016 Finals and on Christmas – and could extend the streak to five today. Beating a rival that frequently is a cause for celebration, and celebration leads to contentment. LeBron would rather keep Cleveland focused and hungry. Hence, saying the Warriors aren’t a rival.

Andre Drummond hits 3-pointer from inside Pistons’ own 3-point arc (video)

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Andre Drummond is really good at these deep heaves.

His 3-point percentage (44%) is even better than his free-throw percentage (38%) the last two years, though that says too much about his work from the line.

Drummond wasn’t the only Pistons player converting to end quarters. Ish Smith and Tobias Harris also stepped up in the Pistons’ 102-97 win over the Lakers:

NBA: Suns got away with offensive foul before key points in win over Spurs

Phoenix Suns Devin Booker acknowledges a foul as San Antonio Spurs Tony Parker lies crumpled on the floor, in the second half of their regular-season NBA basketball game in Mexico City, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell
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Devin Booker scored 39 points in the Suns’ 108-105 win over the Spurs on Saturday in Mexico City.

But Booker’s last four – which put Phoenix up for good – came directly after incorrect calls, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report.

First, Booker drew a (legitimate) foul on Pau Gasol with 1:08 left and made both free throws. The problem: One second before that, Suns center Tyson Chandler should have been called for offensively fouling Tony Parker, according to the league:

Chandler (PHX) sets the screen on Parker (SAS) and makes leg to leg contact that affects his ability to defend the play.

That would’ve ended Phoenix’s possession rather than allowing Booker to get to the line.

The other missed call in the two-minute report is trickier, because it directly benefitted the Spurs but indirectly benefitted the Suns.

Manu Ginobili got away with travelling with 59.1 seconds left, according to  the league:

Ginobili (SAS) moves his pivot foot.

But he coughed up the ball moments later anyway, and – thrilled to gain possession with a live-ball turnover rather than a dead-ball turnover – Booker turned the miscue into a fastbreak dunk.

Rather than debate how to evaluate San Antonio getting away with a travel and it ultimately helping Phoenix more, let’s stick to just the uncalled Chandler offensive foul. That netted the Suns two points. Their lead when the Spurs began intentionally fouling? One.

Russell Westbrook puts up 20th triple-double of season, lifts Thunder past Kings (VIDEO)

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Through 41 games — half the season — Russell Westbrook is averaging 30.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10.5 assists a game. Those numbers are insane, particularly considering his 42 percent usage rate. He has to put up numbers and do so fairly efficiently or the Thunder stand no chance of winning — and he has the Thunder on pace for 48 wins this season.

The Thunder picked up another of those wins Sunday night knocking off the Sacramento Kings behind Westbrook’s 20th triple-double in 41 games — 36 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists. The video highlights are above.

It’s going to be fun watching him and James Harden go back-and-forth in the MVP race for the next few months.