OAKLAND, Calif. - It looked like a perfectly normal weeknight game on the schedule. The Warriors and the Lakers, two longtime rivals at opposite ends of the standings, were playing out another chapter in their one-sided rivalry.
Who could have suspected the feats of offensive brilliance that would be performed by Kobe Bryant? And who would have thought Antawn Jamison could match every single one of them in a shooting duel of historic proportions?
Bryant and Jamison scored 51 points apiece in the first NBA game since 1962 to feature two 50-point scorers. They lit up the night for an appreciative crowd at Oakland Arena, and Jamison landed the last punch in the Warriors' 125-122 overtime victory over the Lakers on Wednesday night.
"I never imagined me doing this," said Jamison, who also had 51 points four nights earlier in Seattle. "I think this is going to open a lot of people's eyes."
Jamison hit his final nine shots - including four in a can-you-top-this? overtime shootout with Bryant, who had 12 points in the extra period - and went 21-of-29 from the field while playing all 53 minutes of the game.
Their battle extended right up to the final buzzer. Golden State led by two when Bryant passed up a shot and found Horace Grant, who missed a layup with six seconds left in overtime.
Jamison ripped the rebound away from Bryant, and after Bob Sura made one free throw for Golden State, Bryant's long 3-pointer over a leaping Jamison at the buzzer just missed. The Warriors celebrated their upset win at midcourt, but Jamison was almost too tired to be excited.
"I was thinking, 'Come on, let this game be over!"' Jamison said with a grin. "It just kept going on. It was too much for me."
After his first two seasons, Jamison seemed in danger of becoming a perennial footnote to Vince Carter, his North Carolina teammate who was drafted by Golden State and then traded to Toronto for Jamison's rights. While Carter quickly became an elite player, Jamison has been hampered by injuries and a bad supporting cast.
But Jamison didn't need any help Wednesday night. In the locker room afterward, Larry Hughes had just one word for Jamison as they shook hands: "Game!"
"The way the last couple of years have been, I've got a lot to prove to other people," said Jamison, whose scoring average leaped from 22.3 to 23.8 points per game, making him 10th in the league. "I want to show people I have a lot of pride and I'm not a bust."
Bryant, who was 18-of-35 from the field and perfect on 13 free throws, extended his career high in points for the second time in six days, but he was frustrated by the world champions' inability to defend a scrappy but thinly talented team like the Warriors.
Hughes had 24 points and nine assists for Golden State, while Mookie Blaylock had 11 points and 10 assists as the Warriors shot 52 percent.
"It was a shootout. We played no defense," said Bryant, who also had eight assists and seven rebounds while raising his league-leading scoring average from 28.8 to 30.0. "It's disappointing, especially after playing such good defense last night (in a win over Philadelphia)."
Defenses and teammates mattered little in the final minutes, when Jamison and Bryant traded baskets with amazing accuracy. Even Shaquille O'Neal seemed mesmerized: He had just six points and one rebound in the fourth quarter and overtime.
"Everything (Jamison) threw up seemed to go in, but they just played with a lot more enthusiasm than we did," said O'Neal, who finished with 25 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks.
"Our guys looked kind of tired. It's very disappointing. We're supposed to beat a team like this 50 out of 50 times, but they were pumped up for us. They played with a lot of enthusiasm, and they got one."
Friday brings Carter and the Raptors to Oakland. Jamison could become the first player to score 50 in three consecutive games since Michael Jordan did it in 1987, and Carter is expected back in Toronto's lineup.
Who knows what feats the former Tar Heels might have in store?
"I don't know if there will ever be a night like this one," Jamison said. "I hope there are a lot more, but this was pretty special."
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