SACRAMENTO — Kobe Bryant gave his fans what they wanted, a sublime 28-point effort in his final appearance here.
Then the young Lakers gave their followers something too, overcoming a 27-point deficit only to lose narrowly to the Sacramento Kings, 118-115, Thursday at Sleep Train Arena.
It was almost the perfect Lakers script, age handing off in-game to youth, until it ended with some dreaded injury suspense.
Rookie D'Angelo Russell scored a career-high 27 points but sprained his right ankle while driving, and scoring, on Kings center DeMarcus Cousins late in the fourth quarter.
Russell stayed down for about a minute after falling several feet behind the basket.
Bryant and Lakers trainer Gary Vitti were among the ones running to check on Russell, who eventually got up and walked to the bench. He returned to the game after a timeout but left quickly after that, unable to move without pain.
"He just said, 'I can't run,'" Lakers Coach Byron Scott said.
X-rays later showed no broken bones in his ankle. The Lakers called it a moderate sprain.
Russell made 11 of 16 shots and added four assists for the Lakers (8-29).
Before the game started, there was the old-school angle, complete with Kings fans ringing cowbells. Bryant had some great games here, the Lakers some memorable playoff victories in the early 2000s. Former Kings players Vlade Divac, Peja Stojakovic and Brad Miller were on hand to commemorate the moment.
Bryant made 10 of 18 shots and successfully ended a three-game absence because of a sore right shoulder. He even scored an alley-oop dunk off a pass from Jordan Clarkson. He did not play in the fourth quarter.
It was the inexperienced Lakers who made the game close with a huge surge. Their chances faded only when Clarkson lost the ball with seven seconds left and, after two Cousins free throws, Lou Williams missed a three-point shot.
In the push-and-pull dichotomy of the Lakers' season — goodbye Bryant or hello youth? — it was a bit of both Thursday.
General Manager Mitch Kupchak went on the Lakers' pregame show and seemingly defended his recent comments to season-ticket holders that the Lakers couldn't move on as a team until Bryant left, not to mention that this season was all about Bryant's retirement.
"That's what the fan base wants. That what everybody wants," he said on TWC SportsNet. "That's what I think our TV partners want, our sponsor partners want, our fans want."
Kupchak added that it would be great if the Lakers' young players would develop as well. There was plenty of that Thursday.
Clarkson scored 12 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter, and Russell had 11 in the quarter before getting injured. Julius Randle was also active, taking 10 rebounds to go with six points.
Russell's ankle will be the focus for a while, his career taking an otherwise strong step Thursday.