Pelicans beat Lakers, Kobe Bryant 110-102
NEW ORLEANS (AP) Byron Scott stood near the Lakers bench Friday night, listening as fans in New Orleans heartily chanted for the Los Angeles coach to put Kobe Bryant back in with nearly eight minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Scott obliged and the sellout crowd gave Bryant one final vociferous sendoff in the Crescent City, erupting with the loudest cheer of the night.
But like so many other farewells this season for the retiring star, his presence on the court wasn't enough. The Pelicans dominated the Lakers in the second half and won 110-102.
Bryant scored 14 points, had four assists and grabbed three rebounds to begin his last NBA road trip ever. The Lakers play at Houston on Sunday and at Oklahoma City on Monday before Bryant's grand finale in Los Angeles on Wednesday.
''It has been amazing,'' said Bryant, adding Friday night was the first time he had ever re-entered a game due to chants from fans. ''I seriously couldn't ask for anything else, or anything more. It's unbelievable to have these reactions.''
A largely pro-Bryant crowd loudly cheered every time he touched the ball during his 22 minutes of game action. Time and again, they chanted his name. And when he came off the floor for the final time, they gave him a standing ovation.
When the game was over, Bryant walked over to the Pelicans bench for hugs and handshakes with injured Pelicans players Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson. He then walked through the visitor's tunnel in New Orleans for the last time, high-fiving fans the entire way.
The reactions for Bryant did have one consequence. They spurred on the Pelicans, Alexis Ajinca said.
''It's a home game and seeing the whole stadium is in gold and purple is kind of annoying so it gets you going,'' said Ajinca, who recorded career highs with 28 points and 15 rebounds. ''He's still a great legend and now he's leaving the game, but at the end of the day, this is still our home.''
The Pelicans turned around a close game they trailed with 3:29 to go in the first half by going on a 15-1 run to finish the second quarter. An 11-point halftime lead eventually blossomed to a 23-point advantage late in the third quarter.
Bryant checked back in with 7:20 to play and the Lakers down 18. He left the game for good with 4:15 to go and Los Angeles behind by 21.
Now he only has three games left in a 20-year career that has included five NBA titles, two Finals MVPs, one NBA MVP and two Olympic Gold medals. He's beginning to think about his legacy.
''The game is much bigger than scoring points or winning championships,'' Bryant said. ''It's really about have you been able to move somebody or inspire somebody for a brief moment to want to be a better version of themselves. Hopefully I've done that because the fans have certainly done that for me. They've really inspired me to try to be the best person.''
If Friday night's crowd reaction is any indication, Bryant has at least inspired the fans in New Orleans.
Lakers: D'Angelo Russell led the Lakers with 32 points while Jordan Clarkson added 26. ... Los Angeles turned the ball over 13 times, allowing 15 points on the giveaways. ... Bryant scored 14 of the Lakers' 27 first-quarter points
Pelicans: Toney Douglas had 20 points and Dante Cunningham added 19...Tim Frazier had 12 assists, leading the team despite playing the game in a reserve guard role. ... New Orleans turned the ball over 16 times.
GENTRY REFLECTS ON BRYANT'S TIME IN NBA
Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry spent eight years coaching in the same division as Kobe Bryant. Prior to Friday's final matchup against the retiring star, Gentry reflected on what his young team should get out of playing against Bryant one final time. ''You're playing against one of the all-time great players to ever put on basketball shoes and walk on the court,'' Gentry said.
Gentry said he used to see him in California during the offseason already preparing for the next one. ''You see him working out in the summer, in July when everybody else is probably vacationing, but that's what drives him,'' Gentry said. ''He truly wanted to be the best player that ever put on the uniform and to me, he did everything that he possibly could to get there.''
Lakers: At Houston on Sunday.
Pelicans: Host Phoenix on Saturday.