Celtics Deal Kobe One Last Loss in LA
LOS ANGELES – Kobe Bryant turned back the clock Sunday night by scoring 34 points during his final game against the Boston Celtics.
What he’ll always remember about this night, however, is that his throwback performance didn’t mean a thing.
When the final buzzer sounded, it was Boston that held a 107-100 advantage and another victory over the rival Lakers, all to secure a successful 3-2 road trip out West.
“It feels really good, especially when he had a great game,” Isaiah Thomas said of the win. “And to end this road trip with a game against the Lakers, and for it be his last game against the Celtics, that means a lot to us.”
The contest marked Bryant’s 31st regular season meeting with the Celtics, and for a while, it appeared as if he’d carry his team to the winner’s circle. Bryant scored 11 points during the first quarter and 18 overall during the first half.
“He looked like the old Kobe from the jump, from the first play,” Thomas said. “He just had a different energy about him that you knew it was probably going to be a long night, that he felt good.”
As Lakers head coach Byron Scott alluded to, “the look” was back in Bryant’s eyes.
“This is probably the first game in a while where KB was dead serious for the whole game,” said Scott. “If you guys were watching his body language, watching his facial expressions, he wasn’t joking around tonight. He wasn’t smiling with other opponents. He wasn’t talking a lot. He understands [this rivalry is] serious. Obviously he wanted to win this one badly.”
All the while, the Lakers legend wanted to put on a show for his fans during one of his final games at the Staples Center.
“Coming into tonight there are three home games left, now two,” Bryant said after acknowledging that Sunday’s game meant more to him than others in his farewell tour. “To the extent that my body will allow me, I am going to do my best to give the fans what they came to see.”
Surely, the Lakers fans came to see Bryant score 20-plus points, and they got that. They also came to see a Lakers win, but the Celtics, on the final day of their 10-day road trip, had just enough left in the tank to prevent that from happening.
Boston pulled ahead by as many as 17 points during the first half on the back of Thomas’ stellar play. Thomas, who has now led the Celtics in scoring during a franchise-record 16 consecutive games, scored 21 points during the first half on 8-of-11 shooting.
Bryant and Lakers forward Julius Randle, however, kept Los Angeles within striking distance. They combined for 30 points during the first half and the Celtics led 57-48 heading into the locker room.
Los Angeles found its groove at the start of the third quarter and quickly erased what remained of Boston’s lead. The Lakers opened the half on an 11-2 run to pull even at 58-58, just three minutes and 20 seconds into the period.
Neither team was able to separate itself from the other until the Celtics strung together a run midway through the fourth quarter. Evan Turner scored five points to drive an 11-3 run that placed Boston ahead by 12 with 4:57 left in the game.
The Lakers never quit, and Bryant scored four points during crunch time to help them pull within 104-100 with 27.9 seconds left. Boston, however, sealed the game with three free throws, one of which was made by Turner, while Jae Crowder drilled the other two.
Following the win, many of Boston’s players made their way over to Bryant to say ‘thank you’ and ‘goodbye.’ This was the final time they’d be able to compete against one of the greatest to ever play the game, and that fact held a lot of weight.
“That’s the best player of my generation,” Thomas said matter of factly. “He’s changed the game, not just on the court but off the court. He means a lot. That’s my favorite player, so it means a lot just to share the same floor as him and be able to compete against him.”
Bryant, too, said that the night held special meaning in spite of the loss.
“It’s weird,” he said following the game. “It’s the last time facing that green, but it has been a joy to be able to go against them and to be a part of a rivalry I watched for so long.”
Now Bryant can watch this rivalry from a distance, knowing that his final chapter ended with a Celtics victory.