WASHINGTON — A night after playing in his hometown of Philadelphia and missing 19 shots, Kobe Bryant seemed more at home in Washington, where he scored 31 points to lift the Lakers past the Wizards 108-104.
In his final appearance at Verizon Center, applause followed Bryant’s every touch and more often than not he delivered something to reward the appreciative fans in the sellout crowd of 20,356. During a timeout in the first quarter, Bryant received a standing ovation, and with a broad smile stepped out of the Lakers huddle to show his appreciation with waves to the cheering crowd and several taps to his heart with his left hand.
It was only the Lakers’ third win of the season, and particularly frustrating for the Wizards, who were eager to build on an impressive road win Tuesday in Cleveland. In the 97-85 win over the Cavaliers, the Wizards only had 13 turnovers for the entire game. Against the Lakers, the Wizards had 12 turnovers in the first half and finished with 23 turnovers that led to 33 Lakers points.
“We just kind of lackadaisically went through offensively, just throwing the ball, a lot of them right to them,” said Wizards head coach Randy Wittman. “Any time you spot a team 33 points off your turnovers, I don’t know how you expect, we are lucky it was a four point game with that, you know. It’s disappointing after the way we’ve played, last night and even the Toronto game.”
For the second straight night, John Wall had more than 30 points and ten assists. Wall had 34 points and 11 assists, but also five of the Wizards turnovers. The Wizards did shoot 46 percent from the field and Marcin Gortat had a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Beyond the arc remained a struggle for the Wizards, who shot only 33 percent from three-point distance.
The Lakers only shot 42 percent from the field, but had Bryant to rely on in the fourth quarter. Bryant scored 12 of his points in the final 12 minutes, including a three-pointer off a Wizards turnover, to give the Lakers a 90-87 lead. With 30 seconds left in regulation Bryant hit a contested jumper from 16 feet to give the Lakers the lead for good at 103-101.
“To me, I think he can play five more years,” Wall said. “It’s just about mentally, physically can he do it just preparing his body. But someone who puts so much into this game of basketball, has the footwork, has the angles and knows how to get to where he wants to be, he doesn’t have to be athletic and faster than everyone anymore. He just knows where he wants to get to his spots on the court. That’s why he’s Kobe Bryant. You saw the way he closed out tonight and made big shots.”
Outside Verizon Center, the fans who cheered Bryant during the game expressed their admiration, and debated his legacy, afterward.
Tiffany Edwards says Bryant is one of the three best players ever; “He’s just amazing — everything that he’s accomplished from the young age of 17 has been amazing.”
Others took a longer, more historical view, such as one fan who ranked Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jerry West and Oscar Robertson ahead of Bryant.
Another fan, Brandon Newby, ranked Bryant third behind Michael Jordan and Lebron James. “Shaq in particular got Bryant] a lot of rings. I go by the amount of championships and I feel like Kobe Bryant had a little bit more help than the other two.”
But J.P., a Los Angeles native, had one word for Bryant: “GOAT: Greatest of all time.”
WTOP’s Liz Anderson contributed to this report.
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