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He scored points here, too

They're raving about Bryant

Eighty-one points. It's still mind-boggling.

Less than 24 hours after Kobe Bryant's otherworldly performance Sunday night in Los Angeles, the talk before last night's Celtics-Hornets game was dominated by the Laker star's showing. Only Wilt Chamberlain, with 100 points, has scored more in one game. Bryant had 55 in the second half alone. He took 46 shots. And he rallied his team from an 18-point hole in the second half to win by 18 over the Toronto Raptors.

Almost to a man, the words were the same.

''Unbelievable," said Hornets coach Byron Scott.

''Awesome," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers.

''Impressive," said an envious Paul Pierce.

''Oh, my goodness," said Hornets rookie Chris Paul.

Then there was the inimitable Cedric Maxwell, who offered the following gem.

''There's no way he's getting 81 on me, not without going to Mass. General first," Maxwell said. ''Everyone on our team [the 1980s Celtics] would have felt the same way."

Maxwell authored the memorable line ''no way the [expletive] is getting 50 on me" when someone asked him how he'd contain the ultra-hot Bernard King in the 1984 playoffs. King didn't get 50 -- until the series moved to New York for Games 3 and 4.

Pierce, who said he never scored as many as 40 points in high school or college, said he watched the entire game.

''I thought I'd never see that happen," he said about the 81 points. ''It was probably the greatest individual performance I've ever seen."

Asked if he could envision taking 46 shots in a game, Pierce paused for effect, then said, ''I'm going to have to do that one day and see what those 46 shots do."

Rivers said he never could have scored that many points in a game. For good reason: ''I had Dominique [Wilkins] on my team."

Scott said he'd get 46 shots in his Laker days -- spread over three or four games.

As for topping Chamberlain's 100, Rivers said, ''I think it's possible. I don't think it's going to happen, but, remember, [Bryant] didn't play well in the first half."

The Green watch

Gerald Green is averaging 11.4 points and 4.6 rebounds for the Fayetteville Patriots in the NBA's development league. The Celtics have sent one of their two strength and conditioning coaches, Walter Norton, to Fayetteville to keep an eye on Green and work with him. The other strength and conditioning coach, Bryan Doo, is scheduled to be with Green next month . . . Rivers provided an unsolicited shout-out for Pierce making the US national team, which is to play in Japan in the World Championships this fall. ''He is a different player and a different person from when he played on the US team the last time," Rivers said. ''I think he's done enough to be on that team." Pierce has consistently said he'd like another shot, having taken much of the blame for the US' sorry performance (sixth place) in the 2002 World Championships . . . Ricky Davis was coming off a season-low 27 minutes against the Nets Saturday. He went 37 last night. Pierce sat out the fourth quarter, going 30 minutes for the second straight game. His season low is 28 in the Dec. 18 blowout loss at Chicago . . . Kendrick Perkins tied his career high with 5 blocked shots. Raef LaFrentz added 3 . . . David West kept the Hornets in the game for one half, collecting 19 of his 21 on 9-of-13 shooting. He was 1 of 8 in the second half . . . Mark Blount was the only player on either active roster who didn't get into the game. It was his second DNP in the last three games.

Which way is home?

The Hornets hope to find out in the next week whether they're going to return to New Orleans for the 2006-07 season. The team has scheduled three games in the Big Easy in March, but has also been welcomed enthusiastically by the people of Oklahoma City. They are averaging 17,554 and have had 10 sellouts in 19 games. Asked for his preference, Scott said, ''I would prefer they make a decision so we know. We love [Oklahoma City], the way they've treated us. We don't know if New Orleans is going to be ready or not. We don't know if our fan base is going to be there. There are a lot of ifs. It really doesn't matter to me. We just want to be in a place where we're wanted and where we can have some fun." Added Paul, ''I'll just be happy to see where we're going to play. I don't think you can be picky when you wake up every morning and you're playing in the NBA. That's a dream come true. Either one is fine with me." . . . Big Al Jefferson collected 11 rebounds, a game high, in 24 minutes.

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