Bryant Drops 31 Points, Powers Lakers to Victory
It was the kind of day that only somebody of Kobe Bryant’s stature could have.
Hours after visiting the White House to meet with President Barack Obama, the 17-time all-star left another opposing arena chanting his name by dropping a season-high 31 points to lead the Lakers past Washington, 108-104.
Bryant treated a largely pro-Lakers crowd to a vintage finale, hitting a 3-pointer with 58 seconds left to turn the Wizards’ one-point advantage into an L.A. lead.
When Marcin Gortat answered on the next possession to tie it back up, Bryant sunk another clutch bucket — this time a 16-foot fadeaway — which sent Verizon Center into a frenzy and put the Lakers ahead for good.
“It was like a movie, him taking it over toward the end, knocking those shots down,” Jordan Clarkson said. “It was crazy. The atmosphere was crazy. The energy was crazy.”
Even crazier was the performance that the 37-year-old Bryant put on in his fourth game in five days. He shot 10-of-24, hitting four triples and scoring 12 points in the final quarter alone.
“I just tried to stay as loose as possible: jumping up and down, running in place and doing all those things that old guys do at the gym that you see and make fun of and try not to do,” Bryant said. “But at this point, you’ve just got to do whatever you gotta do to stay loose.”
Bryant made it a point to operate more from mid-range, where he took half of his shots from, including the game-winner.
“When I have my legs, I can go for that shot,” he said. “And I feel very comfortable in that shot and stopping and pulling up.”
Though Bryant undoubtedly stole the limelight in his final game in Washington, it was a true team effort that propelled the Lakers (3-15) to their first victory in two weeks.
The Wizards (7-9) actually outshot the Lakers — 46.8 percent to 42.7 — but L.A. was able to take 17 more attempts thanks to a plethora of rebounds and steals.
The Lakers doubled Washington’s eight offensive boards thanks primarily to Julius Randle, who had 15 points and a career-high 19 rebounds, including seven on the offensive glass.
“Just taking advantage of my ability as far as my athleticism, especially at my position,” Randle said. “Just tried to play really hard, bust through a wall.”
Meanwhile, the Lakers, who force the league’s third-fewest turnovers, finished with a season-best 18 steals — including seven alone from Lou Williams, who is just the second player in the NBA this season with that many swipes in a game.
Williams’ most important theft came courtesy of a bit of veteran knowledge from Bryant. With Washington trying to inbound after Bryant’s go-ahead jumper, the 20-year veteran told his teammates that John Wall — who scored 34 points, including 15 in the fourth quarter — would be used as a decoy.
Williams heeded Bryant’s words, keyed in on Bradley Beal and came up with the steal to seal victory for L.A.
Back and Forth
At first, it seemed like it might be another painful night for the Lakers, who quickly fell behind by seven midway through the first quarter. But then L.A. scored 13 unanswered points and eventually worked its lead up to 19.
However, Washington was far from done. From the middle of the second frame through the beginning of the third, it went on a 25-6 run to tie things back up.
The game’s up-and-down action featured 13 lead changes and a dozen ties before Bryant’s heroics finally pushed the purple and gold past the Wizards for the first time since December 2010.
“I was a fan just to get to witness it in person,” D’Angelo Russell said of the former MVP’s display.
"KO-BE! KO-BE! KO-BE!" pic.twitter.com/q2JhoG6fYr— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) December 3, 2015
Like Williams, Russell also set a career-high in steals with four. … Clarkson provided 18 points on 6-of-14 shooting. … Wall (11 assists) and Gortat (18 points, 10 rebounds) had double-doubles for Washington. … A sellout crowd of 20,356 was on hand for Bryant’s last game in the nation’s capital.
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