SAN ANTONIO (AP) — San Antonio forward Kawhi Leonard did not play Friday against the Los Angeles Lakers, giving Kobe Bryant one less obstacle in his pursuit of Michael Jordan on the career scoring list.
Leonard, a member of the All-Defensive second team last season, missed his second straight game with a bruised right hand.
Bryant needed 30 points in the game to tie Jordan for third place with 32,292 points.
Bryant is second in the league at 25.5 points per game, but had a season-low nine points on 1-of-14 shooting in a 93-80 home loss to San Antonio on Nov. 14.
Leonard was a primary factor in Bryant's struggles that evening. The 6-foot-7 small forward has become the Spurs' primary defender, guarding the opposition's high-scoring wings such as Bryant and LeBron James.
With Leonard out, the task of trying to stop Bryant was expected to fall on a combination of Danny Green, Manu Ginobili and Marco Belinelli. But "stopping" players like Bryant and Jordan is impossible regardless of who is defending them, San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said.
"You don't stop guys like that," Popovich said. "You have to make them work hard for everything they get. You hope they have a bad night, that sort of stuff. There is nothing you can really do to stop somebody cold. If you take the ball away from them for a while, they figure out how to use their teammates to try to win a basketball game. They're special people."