“Kobe, Kobe, Kobe,” chanted the crowd at Wells Fargo Center. It was Kobe Bryant’s final game in his hometown of Philadelphia, as Lakers fans filled the building to cheer on The Black Mamba one last time, rocking Kobe gear from head to toe.
But the winless Philadelphia 76ers had other plans.
It’s finally over. Philadelphia’s long losing streak has ended, as they avoid becoming the only team in NBA history to start 0-19, routing the Los Angeles Lakers, 103-91.
Despite a losing effort Bryant really cherished this moment, walking off the court with smiles while waving good-bye to the sellout crowd who continued to chant his name.
It was certainly an emotional exit for the five-time champion who received warm good-byes from the Sixers players as well.
“It was emotional for me and deeply appreciative beyond belief – it was really, really special. You can’t script this stuff,” Bryant said after the contest. (via Serena Winters).
And since it was his final game in Philadelphia, Bryant did not hesitate to compile many shot attempts. The 37-year-old put up 26 shots, making just seven, including 17 attempts from three-point distance. Bryant started off the game hitting three out of his first four three-pointers and five out of his first 10 shots, but cooled off considerably as the game progressed.
The 20-year veteran tallied a team-high 20 points to go along with five rebounds, two assists, and one steal in 32 minutes.
Nevertheless, the Sixers did not mind what was going on with Bryant and his emotional homecoming. They had a task of their own which was to break their lengthy losing streak which had reached 28 dating back to last season. And break that losing streak they did.
The Sixers used a surging 23-7 run late in the third and early in the fourth to overcome a 14-point first half deficit behind exuberant team play and insurmountable energy.
The Lakers seemingly hit the snooze button late in the third and watched the game slip away from them. A lineup of T.J. McConnell, Hollis Thompson, Robert Covington, Jerami Grant, and Nerlens Noel was extremely effective for the Sixers, as that unit delivered for Coach Brett Brown.
But the momentum shift occurred mid-way through the third when Roy Hibbert got into a scuffle with a couple of Philadelphia’s players. Three technical fouls were handed out, two against Philly and one against L.A. and suddenly the crowd was electrified, benefitting the 76ers.
From that moment the Lakers were unable to gain any traction, leading to the loss and Sixers’ first victory.
“They just played harder than us, man. I just don’t know what to say no more,” Nick Young said after the loss. “They would have had the worst start in NBA history, that puts us at the bottom of the totem pole.”
Noel made his return from knee soreness, coming off the bench and putting up 14 points, nine rebounds, three assists, and one steal. Robert Covington led the way, however, pouring in 23 points coupled with five rebounds, four assists, and two blocks.
Meanwhile, Grant ignited the Sixers defense with his shot blocking and energy, swatting four shots and collecting seven rebounds to go along with 14 points.
Jordan Clarkson finished with 19 points and five rebounds for the Lakers, while Julius Randle notched a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds but poor shooting and inability to execute cost the Lakers this game.
Once again Los Angeles was not sharing the ball, accumulating just 15 team assists compared to 28 for the Sixers. They were also outscored by 18 points from three-point territory. L.A. shot 37.1 percent from the floor while allowing Philadelphia to shoot 46.8 percent.
It’s safe to say that this team has hit a new all-time low this season, dropping its seventh consecutive game, eight straight on the road, and falling to a 2-15 record. And the road does not get any easier for the Lakers, as they have seven more games left on this road trip, including a handful of back to backs.
In fact, the Lakers will be back in action Wednesday night against John Wall and the Washington Wizards at Verizon Center in hopes of finding some kind of answers.
After improving to 1-18, the Sixers will also play tomorrow against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.