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Lakers

Kobe Bryant gets the cheers, but 76ers get their first win against Lakers

The latest big surprise of the Lakers’ season, other than their calamitous record and Kobe Bryant’s retirement announcement, came in the form of pregame introductions against the Philadelphia 76ers.

The notoriously fickle and ardently anti-Kobe fans stood and made themselves heard Tuesday night.

They cheered. Loudly.

It was as unexpected as it gets, the hometown crowd showing appreciation after typically booing Bryant whenever the Lakers visited the 76ers.

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The cheers near the end of the game were not for Bryant in his final appearance here. They went to the 76ers, who ended a 28-game losing streak and extended the Lakers’ misery with a 103-91 victory.

The Bryant-delights-cranky-hometown tale ended in the first quarter. He made three of his first four shots — all three-point attempts — but made seven of 26 overall by the time it was over, four of 17 behind the arc, as the 76ers ended their 0-18 drought to start the season.

“There’s going to be games like that where you’re just going to live and die with it,” Lakers Coach Byron Scott said. “You’re just hoping that you don’t die too much.”

Bryant’s farewell tour received a very lively kick-start, two days after he said he would retire in April.

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The 76ers gave him a framed jersey from Lower Merion High, presented by Bryant’s high school coach, Gregg Downer, and 76ers legend Julius Erving. Bryant pledged not to cry on the court this season, but he was choked up by the pregame adulation.

“That got me,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting that ovation.”

Some “M-V-P” chants were even heard after his third three-pointer. He then added a 20-footer and a hook shot off a rebound for 13 points in the first nine minutes at Wells Fargo Center.

But Bryant, 37, ended the night far from flawless, despite scoring 20 points. The shots kept coming and so did the misses.

He later complained of being unable to shake stiffness in his legs. In some circles, it’s called old age.

His fourth quarter was badly uneven. He got past Isaiah Canaan but Jerami Grant forcefully blocked his layup attempt out of bounds. Then he missed an open three-point shot and airballed a bizarre left-handed tear-drop attempt.

“You can’t run from the very, very tough times,” Bryant said evenly. “You can’t run from the criticism. You can’t run from the fact that you’re not playing as well as you want to be playing. You’ve got to stand up and face that stuff.”

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He had taken this many three-point shots only two other times in his career and was richly rewarded — he made nine of 17 against Memphis on the way to 53 points in 2008 and 12 of 18 while scoring 45 points in 2003 against Seattle.

That obviously wasn’t the case Tuesday. Scott said it was too many from long distance and repeated a refrain that Bryant would be better taking shots from the post, or near the free-throw line.

Not all 76ers fans were thrilled to attend Bryant’s last game here. One held up a sign that said, “Kobe is no Answer,” a reference to former 76ers star Allen Iverson.

There were, however, plenty of Lakers jerseys and pro-Bryant signs. There was even one that said, “Why can’t Chip Kelly retire instead?” Kelly is the embattled Philadelphia Eagles coach.

Bryant smiled often throughout the game, even when light boos could be heard among the louder cheers when he went to the bench during a less-successful second quarter.

Jordan Clarkson had 19 points for the Lakers (2-15), who lost their seventh in a row. Robert Covington had 23 points for the 76ers, who didn’t have to discuss all the losing for once.

There was one last ovation for Bryant after 76ers fans were done celebrating their team’s first victory.

He touched his chest twice near his heart, then waved to the crowd as he walked off the court. Another chapter in his career was written, pinned to yet another Lakers loss.

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mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

Twitter: Mike_Bresnahan


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