Kobe Rains on Pelicans' Mardi Gras Parade
In celebration of Mardi Gras, the New Orleans Pelicans donned purple, green and gold uniforms and gave away souvenir cups to fans, but the Lakers were the ones celebrating after the final buzzer.
So how were the Lakers able to spoil New Orleans’ festivities?
“Kobe Bryant,” head coach Byron Scott answered, laughing. “It ain’t no secret.”
Indeed, the future Hall of Famer’s presence hardly went under the radar, as Bryant treated the home crowd to 27 points and a season-best 12 rebounds, while pushing the Lakers past their hosts, 99-96, on Thursday night.
Though Anthony Davis countered with 39 points — his second-highest output of the season — and 11 rebounds, he couldn’t prevent the Lakers from winning back-to-back games.
Los Angeles (11-41) blitzed New Orleans (18-31) for an early 13-2 lead, but the Big Easy wouldn’t live up to its nickname, as the Pelicans ended the quarter with 14 unanswered points for a one-point edge.
Still, the Lakers managed to roll off another extended run in the following period, firing up a 16-2 sprint to steal the lead at 50-38. Led by Jordan Clarkson — who had 16 points on 7-of-7 shooting at halftime — L.A. entered the locker room with an 11-point lead.
Yet the purple and gold still weren’t safe, as Davis had much to say before his team went down. An all-star this year alongside Bryant, Davis scored 17 of New Orleans’ 21 points in the third quarter to keep the Pelicans within striking range.
New Orleans scored six straight to trim L.A.’s lead to three with a minute left, but the Lakers simply gave the ball to the most dangerous man on the floor.
Having hit three clutch shots in the final five minutes of the Lakers’ previous game on Tuesday, Bryant rose up and splashed a 26-foot 3-pointer to extinguish the comeback bid.
Bryant saw it as redemption for getting an unenviable spot on a Ryan Anderson poster just a minute earlier.
“I started ribbing Julius (Randle about getting dunked on), and then tonight the basketball gods saw to it that Ryan Anderson dunked on me,” Bryant said between chuckling. “I laughed all the way up the court and I thought the crowd had a good time doing it. So then when I hit the 3, it kind of added a little to it. It was fantastic. It was awesome.”
The 37-year-old provided a dozen points in the fourth quarter alone, including three triples.“We’ve got to have a way of understanding that you have to have that killer instinct to put the game away instead of allowing a team to keep coming back,” Scott said. “Our young guys are going through it and learning that. But obviously Kobe’s leading by example of how to kind of step on people’s necks when you have a chance to.”
JC’s Got Skills
Before the game, Clarkson was selected as one of eight participants for the Skills Challenge at next week’s All-Star Saturday.
Clarkson — who is playing in the Rising Stars Challenge the night before — will compete against all-stars like Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Draymond Green and Isaiah Thomas. Rounding out the field will be C.J. McCollum, Karl-Anthony Towns and reigning champion Patrick Beverley.
The bracket-style tournament will be decided with players competing head-to-head in an obstacle course that includes segments of dribbling, passing, agility and 3-point shooting.
Bryant recorded his second double-double of the season and is averaging 29.3 points in his last three games. … Clarkson hit his first eight shots, but then missed his final seven. … New Orleans forced 16 turnovers, which it converted into only eight points. … The Pelicans were without Tyreke Evans (knee) and Eric Gordon (finger). … A sold-out crowd of 18,420 filled up Smoothie King Center.
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