Bryant scores 31 to lead Lakers past Wizards 108-104
Dec. 03, 2015
WASHINGTON (AP) — Two games into a farewell tour that's already included an emotional night in his home city, a visit to the White House and a vintage performance, Kobe Bryant is still getting used to all the love.
He got plenty of it from another sellout crowd Wednesday night and scored 12 of his season-high 31 points in the fourth quarter to help the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Washington Wizards 108-104.
"I thought everybody hated me," Bryant said through a beaming smile after his final game in Washington. "It's really cool, man."
Bryant finished 10 of 24 from the floor and appeared to turn back time in the last of his team's four games in five days, shaking off a cold stretch to hit a string of critical shots in the waning minutes.
With each one, the ovations from a crowd of 20,356 mixed with Lakers and Wizards fans grew louder. By the time Bryant's pull-up jumper sent Bradley Beal backpedaling and gave the Lakers a 103-101 lead with 30.8 seconds remaining, the Verizon Center sounded more like Staples Center in Los Angeles.
"It was like a movie, man," said Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson, who had 18 points. "Him taking it over towards the end and making those shots, it was crazy."
Bryant received a similar reception Tuesday night during a loss to the previously winless 76ers in his hometown of Philadelphia, his first game after announcing his plans to retire after the season. He shot 7 of 26 in that one and scored 20 points.
"We are all just having fun and going out there and trying to play with the right energy," Bryant said. "It seems like it has pumped some life into us."
Said Wizards guard John Wall, who had 34 points and 11 assists: "We knew it was going to be that type of atmosphere. That's what it's going to be like wherever he goes."
Julius Randle had 15 points and a career-best 19 rebounds for the Lakers (3-15), who hit five of their last six free throws to snap a seven-game losing streak.
Wall scored 15 in the fourth quarter. But after Bryant's last basket, Wall's errant pass was stolen by Lou Williams, one of 23 Washington turnovers.
Marcin Gortat added 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Wizards, who have dropped five of six despite erasing an early 19-point deficit.
"We're lucky it was a four-point game," coach Randy Wittman said.
WHITE HOUSE VISIT
Earlier in the day, Bryant said he shared a short visit and conversation at the White House with President Barack Obama.
"We talked a lot about the game," Bryant said. "We talked a lot about the future and what comes next. And it was great to spend that time with him."
Bryant's performance came at the end of Los Angeles' busiest five-day stretch of the season, in which he played at least 32 minutes in all four games.
Coach Byron Scott said the plan is for Bryant to start as many games as possible, regardless of the schedule, and adjust accordingly if fatigue sets in.
"He'll tell me, 'I just don't have legs,'" Scott said. "And I've got to just get him out of there as soon as possible and hope that he can get them back somehow in the next 5 or 10 minutes, or if not, just wait until the next game."
SALUTE TO KOBE
Midway through the first quarter, the Wizards honored Bryant with a message on the video board that read: "Thank you for an amazing 20 years." Bryant raised his right arm as the crowd gave the first of several loud ovations.
Lakers: "It seems like every day our world is getting crazier, for whatever reason. Life is not as precious to some people as it is for others. For us in general, being L.A.'s team, and myself in general, living in California, this is crazy." — Scott on Wednesday's mass shooting in San Bernadino, California.
Wizards: "It was awful. ... He still gives me nightmares. But it's a pleasure to say that I was there every step of the way watching this kid grow into who he is today." — Wittman on preparing to face Bryant as a head or assistant coach throughout his stellar career.
Lakers: Improved to 1-2 during a six-game stretch against Eastern Conference opponents. ... Scored 22 points on 12 first-half turnovers. ... G Nick Young did not play for the first time this season.
Wizards: C Nene (calf) missed his third consecutive game but G Gary Neal (groin) returned after missing two.
Lakers: At the Atlanta Hawks on Friday.
Wizards: Host the Phoenix Suns on Friday.