If nothing else, Kobe Bryant’s final game against the San Antonio Spurs was entertaining.
It’s about all the Lakers can offer these days.
This one came down to the final minute Friday night, Bryant adding some excitement but unable to prevent a 119-113 loss.
The theme from “Rocky” made a late appearance over the Staples Center sound system when he dislocated the middle finger on his right hand while steadying himself after losing his balance. X-rays did not show a fracture and Bryant planned to play Sunday in Chicago, his last game at the house Michael built.
Bryant returned quickly after trainer Gary Vitti popped his finger into place. He nodded to his two daughters and wife as they sat across from the Lakers’ bench, and finished with 25 points on 10-for-25 shooting.
His post-dislocation 11-foot floater pulled the Lakers to within 111-107 with 1:23 to play, but Patty Mills answered with a three-pointer and the Lakers faded.
Half an hour after the game, Bryant raised his injured middle finger, which was in a soft bandage.
“It’s probably the only time I can sit here like this at a press conference,” he said.
Bryant said the finger was numb and wasn’t sure if it would be “something that was going to linger.”
None of this was part of Coach Byron Scott’s wish list for the rest of the season. He shared that with reporters earlier in the day:
2) Develop young players.
3) Win games.
To that extent, he even told Bryant to be ready for reduced playing time to make way for the Lakers’ youth.
Bryant came into Friday averaging 29 minutes. He logged 29 against San Antonio. The reduced time will have to wait.
Maybe Scott will soon see how D’Angelo Russell fares with a last-second shot. Or how Jordan Clarkson does without Bryant in crunch time.
“A lot of those guys defer to him, understandably so,” Scott said without naming names. “There will be some of those games where he’s not on the floor. Then they don’t have that security blanket to just say, ‘OK, we’re just going to throw it to KB and see what happens.’ They’re going to have to make some plays for themselves.”
Friday’s wasn’t one of those games.
With Bryant helping, the Lakers made a decent fourth-quarter rally after trailing by 10 through three.
Kawhi Leonard did not play because of a sore calf, so Tony Parker (25 points, six assists) and Tim Duncan (12 points, 13 rebounds) covered for the Spurs (46-9).
Lakers Coach Byron Scott high-fives forward Kobe Bryant after replacing him in the final moments of the game against the Spurs.(Alex Gallardo / Associated Press)
Lakers forward Kobe Bryant reacts after an injuring a finger late in the game against the Spurs.(Alex Gallardo / Associated Press)
Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson (6) battles Spurs guard Danny Green, left, and forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) for control of the ball during the second half Friday night at Staples Center.(Alex Gallardo / Associated Press)
Lakers forward Kobe Bryant fights Spurs forward Kyle Anderson, left, and guard Tony Parker for the ball during the second half.(Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images)
Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) tries to shoot over Lakers center Roy Hibbert, left, and forward Julius Randle, right, during the second half.(Alex Gallardo / Associated Press)
Spurs forward Kyle Anderson tries to defend against Lakers forward Kobe Bryant during the first half.(Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images)
Lakers forward Kobe Bryant (24) drives the lane against Spurs guard Tony Parker (9) and center Tim Duncan (21) during the first half.(Alex Gallardo / Associated Press)
Spurs forward Boris Diaw drives the baseline against Lakers forwards Larry Nance Jr. and Brandon Bass during the first half.(Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images)
Spurs forward David West (30) and Lakers guard Lou Williams reach for a loose ball during the first half.(Alex Gallardo / Associated Press)
Lakers forward Kobe Bryant passes after driving against Spurs guard Jonathon Simmons and forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) during the first half.(Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images)
Lou Williams scored 21 points and Clarkson added 20 for the Lakers (11-45), who have lost four in a row and 14 of their last 16 games.
Scott continued to be asked about developing the young players and, as usual, had revealing answers.
“It’s just like raising your kids. You’re going to have those times where it brings a big smile on your face because you’re happy and then you’ve got those times where you want to get the belt out and you can’t do that now, whip their butt a little bit,” he said with a smile.
Scott then spoke in depth about Russell. He liked the incremental improvement of the rookie point guard even if Friday was nothing special — eight points and three assists.
Scott would like more in-game control from Russell, he said beforehand.
“It’s not five-on-five at the ‘Y,’” he said. “You’ve got to understand what’s going on with the clock and with your teammates. If they had a 6-0 run, let’s come down and make them play a little defense.”
The day revolved around Bryant, of course. For his last game against San Antonio, he received a huge bottle of red wine from Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich.
It went beyond magnum size, much larger than imperial size. It was closer to a Nebuchadnezzar. That’s 15 liters.
“It’s the biggest bottle I’ve ever seen,” said Lakers publicist John Black, a noted connoisseur who added with a laugh, “I don’t know if it’s any good or not but it’s definitely big.”
Vino for the player sometimes nicknamed “Vino.” Made sense.
So did the Lakers’ losing to the Spurs. It’s that kind of a season.
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