Kobe Bryant gets hot then cools off in final minutes of Lakers’ 89-87 loss to Pacers
It was like the good old days, Kobe Bryant heating up quickly and yanking the Lakers back into a game.
But now they’re simply old days for the 37-year-old. He was unable to finish his flourish and missed five shots in the final two minutes of a brutally played 89-87 loss Monday to the Indiana Pacers.
There was fiery Kobe and frigid Kobe, an 11-point outburst that meant an 82-79 lead with 2:30 to play, followed by an outrageous 30-foot three-point attempt and four more misses by him.
“Pulled the rabbit out of the hat and then it disappeared,” said Bryant, who was way off before his brief eruption and finished with 19 points on six-for-25 shooting at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Lakers Coach Byron Scott verbally shrugged at it, deferring to Bryant as he had throughout the season.
“Sometimes you live and die with it. I’m willing to do that with him,” he said.
The Lakers and Pacers were anything but finesse, showing the antithesis of refinement in a bludgeoning game that was also Bryant’s last here.
There wasn’t much fanfare from the Pacers beforehand — no tribute videos, no memorable standing ovations.
Perhaps they remembered Game 4 of the 2000 NBA Finals, when Bryant seemingly grew up overnight by filling the box score in overtime after Shaquille O’Neal fouled out.
Or maybe they closely followed the standard email the Lakers sent opponents before playing on the road. The email requested no gifts for Bryant, who told Lakers management he didn’t want the distraction before games when he announced his retirement Nov. 29.
Regardless, most teams have done one of three things in their final home game against Bryant — privately give him a gift long before tipoff, honor him with a pregame scoreboard video or both.
Indiana and Portland are the only teams on the “last stop” tour that haven’t done much beyond a regular introduction, as if Bryant was Lou Williams.
(Bryant, by the way, enjoys the video tributes and off-the-court gifts, regardless of cautionary emails and whatever else.)
He didn’t seem to enjoy how he felt physically Monday, calling it “horrible” while adding that his body “locked up” on him.
He almost missed an uncontested second-quarter quasi-dunk, seemingly mistiming his approach and lightly hitting the rim with the ball, which barely scooted through. He was credited with a layup and smiled as he jogged downcourt, aware of the near blunder and later blaming it on C.J. Miles trying to make a run at him from behind.
“It was hilarious. I was going to lay it up off the glass,” Bryant said. “I tried to do the bare minimum.”
Bryant played well in two recent victories, then not so great against San Antonio and downright poor Monday. Before the game, he summarized his play this season as “... or shinola.”
It was the former against Indiana, though Bryant had plenty of company as the Lakers (11-43) shot 31.2%.
D’Angelo Russell made only six of 18 shots, Williams was three for 11, Jordan Clarkson four for 12 and Nick Young one for seven.
Indiana (28-24) didn’t shoot well either. Paul George had a game-high 21 points on six-for-18 accuracy.
Lakers forward Julius Randle (30) drives by Pacers forward Myles Turner (33) during the first half.(Michael Conroy / Associated Press)
Pacers forward Paul George looks on before a game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.(Joe Robbins / Getty Images)
Pacers forward Paul George defends against Lakers forward Kobe Bryant during the first half.(Joe Robbins / Getty Images)
Lakers forward Kobe Bryant (24) drives past Pacers forward Paul George (13) during the first half.(Michael Conroy / Associated Press)
Pacers center Ian Mahinmi lies bleeding on the floor after being hit in the forehead in the first half of the game.(Joe Robbins / Getty Images)
Lakers forward Kobe Bryant (24) drives to the basket against Pacers forward Paul George (13) during the first half.(Michael Conroy / Associated Press)
Lakers forward Kobe Bryant (24) waves to Indiana Pacers fans as he leaves the game in the final seconds of the second half.(Michael Conroy / Associated Press)
Paul George of the Indiana Pacers gets a hug from Kobe Bryant before the game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on February 8, in Indianapolis.(Joe Robbins / Getty Images)
Indiana Pacers center Ian Mahinmi reacts after being hit in the face as he was guarded by Lakers guard Louis Williams (23) during the first half.(Michael Conroy / Associated Press)
Lakers guard Louis Williams (23) pulls up for a shot in front of Indiana Pacers guard Joe Young (1) during the first half.(Michael Conroy / Associated Press)
Lakers forward Julius Randle shoots over Indiana Pacers forward Myles Turner (33) during the first half.(Michael Conroy / Associated Press)
Lakers center Roy Hibbert erased one story line when he sat out because of a sprained left ankle, ending the minor suspense over whether Pacers fans would boo or cheer him upon his return to Indiana. It was unclear whether he would play Wednesday at Cleveland, the Lakers’ last game before the All-Star break.
A much-needed break, of course.
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