Basketball: Bryant rolls back clock at both ends

Kobe Bryant (second from left) taking a shot over Denver Nuggets' Will Barton. The LA Lakers star also did well in his defensive role, holding the hot-shooting Barton to two points in the second half.
Kobe Bryant (second from left) taking a shot over Denver Nuggets' Will Barton. The LA Lakers star also did well in his defensive role, holding the hot-shooting Barton to two points in the second half.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Laker ties season-high points effort and plays exemplary defence in victory over Nuggets

DENVER (United States) • Kobe Bryant's vintage National Basketball Association performance on Tuesday showed that he can still dominate a game on both ends of the floor.

He scored 11 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter and played shutdown defence in the second half, and the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Denver Nuggets 111-107.

Bryant tied his season-high effort and helped the Lakers (5-23) win for just the second time in 10 games. He played for the first time in five games after missing Saturday's 40-point loss at Oklahoma City with a sore right shoulder.

His offensive numbers were nearly overshadowed by his defence.

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    Will Barton, who scored 23 in the first half, was restricted to only two by the stifling defence of Kobe Bryant

Bryant took on hot-shooting guard Will Barton and held him to two points in the second half to help the Lakers overcome a double-digit deficit.

"It was a great test for me tonight to see if I could play both ends of the floor," he said.

"I felt like I could do one, I didn't know if I could do them both.

"It felt good to be able to do that."

Guard Jordan Clarkson scored 19 points and guard Lou Williams had 17 for Los Angeles.

Bryant, who will retire after the season, received a warm reception from the Pepsi Center crowd and tried to give the fans a show early in his penultimate visit to Denver.

In the first quarter, he converted a four-point play when he was fouled on a three-pointer and hit the free throw, drawing cheers.

The cheering continued throughout the night when he hit his 10 field goals and nine free throws.

The home crowd also showed their appreciation to Barton, scorer of 25 points. Guard Gary Harris tied a career-high with 21, and centre Nikola Jokic had 15 points and 10 rebounds for Denver (11-17).

"Defensively, we weren't there at all," said Denver guard Jameer Nelson, who briefly left the game due to illness.

"They got pretty much whatever they wanted."

The same could not be said for the Nuggets.

Bryant took the lead on defence when Barton re-entered the game with 7:27 left in the third quarter.

"Barton was tearing us up in the first half," Lakers coach Byron Scott said. "I asked Kobe if he wanted to guard him and he said, 'I got him.' He had two points after that."

Barton was just 1-for-5 in the second half.

The game was close in the fourth but Bryant hit a jumper with 6:13 left. His three free throws with 3:48 to go extended the lead to 101-95. Harris had a fast-break dunk and a three-pointer to get Denver within 103-100.

Bryant then hit two free throws and a turnaround jumper with 32.2 seconds left to make it 107-100.

"I can still play a little bit," he said.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 24, 2015, with the headline 'Bryant rolls back clock at both ends'. Print Edition | Subscribe