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Lakers

Kobe Bryant’s jam is sweet in Lakers’ loss to Rockets

Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant dunks over Rockets forward Clint Capela during the Lakers’ 107-87 loss Thursday night.

(Harry How / Getty Images)

If nothing else, Lakers fans got to boo Dwight Howard. And see Kobe Bryant’s first dunk this season.

People could pocket their ticket stub and maybe some memories from a game that was bizarrely charged for three quarters before the Houston Rockets pulled away for a 107-87 victory Thursday at Staples Center.

It’ll probably be that way the rest of the season. Wins and losses won’t mean as much as Bryant stat lines and satisfied ticket-holders.

His dunk early in the third quarter was impressive. He drove past Trevor Ariza, put the ball in his right hand and soared over Rockets power forward Clint Capela.

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Fans went wild. There was an in-game standing ovation. D’Angelo Russell was hit with a technical foul for leaving the bench while celebrating.

“It was pretty impressive for a 37-year-old,” Lakers Coach Byron Scott said. “After he dunked it, it was kind of like, ‘Whoa, where did that come from?’ He always just lays it up in practice.”

It was Bryant’s first dunk since he sustained a torn rotator cuff on a driving slam against New Orleans last January.

But the crowd quieted halfway through the fourth quarter, the Lakers quickly finding themselves down 14 after a slew of turnovers.

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Reality had returned after Bryant’s 10-point third quarter. The Lakers fell to 4-22.

Make no mistake, it’s still Bryant’s show, whether he’s on target or not, the latter more the norm these days.

The Bryant who carelessly hoisted, and missed, three-point shot after three-point shot was replaced last week by a more engaged, spry version.

He had 22 points on nine-for-16 shooting against Houston, adding eight rebounds and three assists in front of a celebrity-infused crowd, a rarity this season, that included Denzel Washington, Mark Wahlberg, Sylvester Stallone and Lakers owner Jeanie Buss.

Bryant later unfurled a hesitation move against Ariza, catching him off guard by driving, stopping and driving again before finishing with a shot off the glass.

This was Bryant from ... name your year, 2009? 2010? Maybe 2001? Not quite.

He was shooting 30.2% as of last week but countered with 54% over the last four games.

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There were still imperfections in his game Thursday. His defense wasn’t NBA grade and he made two of seven free throws.

As for the other Lakers, Julius Randle had 18 points and 10 rebounds while Russell stumbled with only two points on one-for-nine accuracy.

James Harden was far less accurate than Bryant (seven for 24 from the field), but he totaled 25 points with nine free throws.

Howard drew boos from we-still-remember fans whenever he touched the ball. He made only three of 10 shots but finished with 16 points after the Lakers employed the Hack-a-Howard in the fourth quarter. He made 10 of 18 from the line for Houston (13-14).

There was still Bryant’s dunk, whatever it meant with the backdrop of a team careening toward its worst record ever.

“I felt springy. No idea where it came from, but it was there,” Bryant said. “Can’t really explain it.”

Just the latest inexplicable part of a season that will end April 13.

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

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Twitter: Mike_Bresnahan


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