Lakers’ Kobe Bryant has break-out game in 108-104 win over Wizards

first_imgWASHINGTON >> The volume level rose as Kobe Bryant held the ball in his hands. For nearly the first time all season, the enthusiasm represented something more than just nostalgia for Bryant’s accomplished career. It conveyed the excitement on what Bryant would do with the ball.Bryant drilled a 3-pointer from 26 feet out. Nearly 30 seconds later, Bryant sank an elbow jumper. On the next possession, he rotated on defense to cause a deflection that led to a fast-break basket.All of which became good enough for the Lakers to secure a 108-104 victory over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday at Verizon Center. The outcome may have provided only temporary solace for the Lakers (3-14) in snapping a seven-game losing streak. But it may have meant everything for Bryant, who posted a season—high 31 points on 10-of-24 shooting in 36 minutes. That marked a sharp improvement from Tuesday’s performance in Philadelphia, where he scored 20 points on an erratic 7-of-26 clip, including going 4 of 17 from 3-point range. “He’s going to have a whole lot more like this,” Lakers coach Byron Scott predicted afterwards. But the reasons have nothing to do with Bryant needing a confidence boost after averaging 15.8 points while shooting a career-low 30.1 percent from the field in his 20th and final NBA season. Since when has Bryant ever needed reassurance?“I don’t necessarily need it for perspective, but more for figuring out my body,” Bryant said. “I have to look at what I did the last couple of days different in preparing my body and why it feels so strong right now.”The Lakers showed strength elsewhere. Jordan Clarkson added 18 points. Julius Randle posted a double-double with 15 points and 19 rebounds. D’Angelo Russell had 13 points. And Lou Williams collected seven steals. But everything obviously centered on Bryant, whose turnaround play seemed unexpected considering the circumstances. Bryant played on the second night of a back-to-back game. It would seem understandable if he felt an emotional toll from playing the night before in Philadelphia, where his hometown fans gave him a rousing reception after years of booing him. Bryant lamented his legs tightening up randomly, which Scott jokingly explained as “getting old.” But Bryant’s changed fortunes started with a talk with President Barack Obama. Bryant reported the two spoke on Wednesday for about 15-20 minutes regarding basketball and his future, a conversation Bryant described as “inspirational.” Bryant also spent his time on the bench and in timeouts stretching his legs, jumping and even performing butt-kicks to stay warm. “It’s all those things that old guys do at the gym that you see and you make fun of that you try not to do,” Bryant joked.But no one on the Lakers laughed at Bryant. Instead, they marveled at him for performing feats that Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson likened to “a movie.”Bryant appeared more measured in his play than his shot-happy performance in Philadelphia. He swished two of his first three shot attempts.“The shots he was making today were the same shots he had been missing,” Russell said. That added extra meaning when the Wizards showered Bryant with a scoreboard tribute. The sell-out crowd of 20,356 fans also cheered him as he walked off the court. The support conveyed appreciation both for his career and his latest performance.“I thought everybody hated me,” Bryant said, chuckling afterward. “It’s really cool.”center_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img

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