Bryant's Flurry Not Enough Against Pacers
Playing against his childhood idol for the final time, Paul George watched as Kobe Bryant put on a show reminiscent of the ones that made him an NBA icon in the first place. Then, George affirmed his own stardom by countering with a matching clutch performance.
Bryant scored 11 points in one minute and 45 seconds to give the Lakers a late three-point lead, but George responded by muscling past his idol for a go-ahead and-1 layup to push Indiana to an 89-87 victory.
“For a second, I was stunned,” said George, who had 21 points and nine rebounds. “(Bryant) hit shot after shot after shot. For me to finish the game off on a layup and drive with him guarding, this one was an epic finish — a special finish.”
Based on the quality of the Lakers’ offense — which shot a season-worst 31.2 percent — Los Angeles was fortunate to even have a chance at victory.
The Lakers (11-43) went just 5-of-20 in the second quarter and didn’t play much better for the majority of the third, as the Pacers (28-24) stretched their lead to as many as 17.
However, the frosty Lakers suddenly heated up as the clock wound down, scoring 12 unanswered points at the end of the frame.
After a back-and-forth start to the final period, the Lakers found themselves trailing by six with 4:15 remaining when Bryant ignited.
The 18-time All-Star knocked down shots on four consecutive trips down the court — the final three of which were all 3-pointers — much to the delight of the noisy Lakers fans who attended his final game in Indiana.
“I’m not unhappy that’s the last time I face Kobe,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “He was great Kobe is one of the best ever. He’s been one of the special players for the game.”
Though he put the Lakers ahed by three with 2:30 left, Bryant — who was just 2-of-14 prior to his outburst — wound up missing his last five shots of the night.
“I made a shot and then went back to shooting like (garbage),” said Bryant, who scored 19 points. “Pulled the rabbit out of the hat and the rabbit disappeared.”
Indeed, while Bryant’s magic went missing, George pulled a Houdini-like escape from a poor attempt with the shot clock winding down.
The Pacer was bailed out by Jordan Clarkson, who fouled George from behind the 3-point line. George hit each of his foul shots to trim L.A.’s lead to one in the final minute.
Following an empty Lakers possession, Bryant attempted to defend George, but could not stop the 25-year-old from attacking the basket. Brandon Bass scrambled to provide help defense yet only succeeded in fouling George, who completed the three-point play for a lead that Indiana would never surrender.
Bryant’s responding 3-point attempt was off the mark, and the Lakers wouldn’t manage another score until Julius Randle’s meaningless buzzer-beating triple.
“Sometimes you live and die with it,” head coach Byron Scott said of Bryant’s 6-of-25 shooting. “And I’m willing to do it with him. … He hit three big ones in a row for us, so I wasn’t going to go away from him then.”
Kids Come to Play
While Bryant struggled outside of his otherworldly surge, the Lakers’ young duo of Randle and D’Angelo Russell provided strong performances throughout the contest.
Randle picked up his 21st double-double of the year by racking up 15 points and a career-high 19 rebounds, despite only attempting nine shots
“He’s been fantastic,” Scott said. “If you look at his stats, besides the turnovers, other than that he’s playing just great basketball. … He’s rebounding the hell out of the ball.”
Meanwhile, Russell provided 16 points, five rebounds, five assists and a career-best four steals. Like Randle, who had five turnovers, Russell also struggled a bit by shooting 6-of-18, though still left Scott impressed.
“I thought D’Angelo was very poised in the fourth quarter, doing a lot of good things as far as getting our guys where they need to be,” Scott said.
Roy Hibbert (ankle) missed his first game of the year, which would have also been his first tilt against his former team. … Indiana shot just 4-of-27 on 3-pointers but doubled L.A.’s 22 points in the paint. … The Lakers (29-of-93) took 15 more shots than the Pacers yet made two fewer. … Indiana’s Myles Turner (14 points, 13 rebounds) notched the second double-double of his rookie campaign. … A sold-out crowd of 18,165 packed Bankers Life Fieldhouse.