Lakers fall to Knicks, 99-95, in what feels like a Kobe farewell to N.Y.
This can’t be the way Kobe Bryant envisioned his last game at Madison Square Garden, if it really turns out that way.
There were plenty of missed shots by one of the greatest to play in this arena, joined by a disheveled Lakers offense in the final few minutes and, naturally, a Sunday matinee loss to the New York Knicks, 99-95, followed by several hugs from Bryant that looked like the goodbye type.
He once scored 61 points here and had to settle for 18 after making only six of 19 shots as the Lakers’ one-game winning streak ended.
They are now 1-5, headed nowhere in the standings, and still facing games in Miami, Orlando and Dallas before returning home.
Julius Randle had an off night, scoring six points on three-for-12 shooting, and the Lakers had an embarrassing stretch after their lead stood at 90-87 on Bryant’s free throw with 3 minutes 2 seconds to play.
Oh, and Williams missed a layup before Roy Hibbert finally scored down low.
It was bad basketball, plain and simple, with no organization.
The final few minutes were loaded with “mental mistakes” and “silly mistakes,” Lakers Coach Byron Scott said.
Randle might have said it better: “We kind of spreaded apart, kind of did our own thing instead of doing what got us there.”
It was a yawner of a game, void of the electricity that encircled the arena in 2009, when Bryant made 19 of 31 shots and all 20 of his free-throw attempts.
The Lakers shot 38.3%, outdone barely by the Knicks’ 39.3%. It was only partly surprising that the scent of a skunk drifted through the arena an hour after the game.
Most of the day was about Bryant and the ever-increasing foreshadowing that this would be his 20th and final NBA season. Scott was the latest to drop some bread crumbs, disclosing a revealing talk with him a few days ago.
“That’s the first time he had hinted to me that this might be his last year,” said Scott, who wouldn’t specifically say what was discussed. “Bottom line is, he said this might be his last year.”
Lakers center Roy Hibbert loses control of the ball as he’s defended by Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis, left, and center Robin Lopez in the second half Sunday.(Kathy Willens / Associated Press)
Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony drives against Lakers guard Kobe Bryant in the first half Sunday.(Kathy Willens / Associated Press)
Lakers forward Julius Randle, left, gets tangled with Knicks center Robin Lopez in the second half Sunday.(Kathy Willens / Associated Press)
Lakers forward Kobe Bryant drives around Knicks guard Jerian Grant in the first half Sunday.(Kathy Willens / Associated Press)
Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) shoots over a pair of Lakers defenders in the second half Sunday.(Kathy Willens / Associated Press)
Lakers forward Kobe Bryant fights for possession of the ball with Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, center, and guard Jose Calderon in the first half.(Jason Szenes / EPA)
Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony and Lakers forward Julius Randle battle for rebounding position in a Nov. 8 game at New York’s Madison Square Garden.(Kathy Willens / Associated Press)
Lakers forward Kobe Bryant protects the ball as he’s guarded by Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony in the first half Sunday.(Kathy Willens / Associated Press)
Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony embraces Lakers forward Kobe Bryant after their game Sunday.(Kathy Willens / Associated Press)
Bryant, 37, again wouldn’t confirm he was retiring at season’s end (April 13 against Utah at Staples Center, until further notice).
And yet, it seemed as if something was concluding when he left the court.
He shared a long embrace with friend Carmelo Anthony, who scored 24 points for the Knicks (3-4). Then he had some private words with former teammate Sasha Vujacic, who added five points for New York. They hugged not once, but twice.
Bryant also offered encouragement to Knicks rookie Kristaps Porzingis, who had 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Then Bryant approached his wife and two daughters in their courtside seats, stopping briefly to shake hands with comedian Tracy Morgan.
He probably would have hugged Derek Fisher too, but the Knicks coach was ejected near the midpoint of the third quarter for arguing a foul call that sent Bryant to the line for three free throws.
Finally, there was some applause and a few “Ko-be, Ko-be” chants as he walked off the court, raising an index finger and waving as well.
Bryant was gracious afterward, smiling often in his postgame news conference and saying the Lakers might be “figuring some things out, honestly.”
There could be some argument there, based on the 11-0 run they surrendered in crunch time.
Above all, Bryant had kind words for what looked increasingly like his final stop here.
“I don’t think you understand how much I watched this building growing up,” Bryant said, naming some of the great Knicks players from earlier generations. “I was a true, true fan of watching all these games. To be able to come here and have the performances that I had in this building, I feel extremely, extremely fortunate.”
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