BOSTON • Kobe Bryant experienced a huge send-off from the TD Garden crowd on Wednesday. And despite a poor shooting night, the retiring 37-year-old National Basketball Association star showed he has a bit left in the tank.
" It was great. Not the start I wanted, but the finish was fine," he said after his long three-pointer helped his Los Angeles Lakers end a four-game losing streak with a 112-104 victory over the Boston Celtics. "Being able to say thank you to the fans was a beautiful moment."
His long shot helped stem a Boston comeback and he then pulled down his 11th rebound on the next play. Bryant was just five of 18 and finished with 15 points for his first double-double of the season and the 173rd of his career .
When the game ended, the crowd roared as Bryant exchanged hugs with several Celtics and then acknowledged the crowd as he walked toward the exit.
He stopped and exchanged hugs with Boston owner Wyc Grousbeck and his family and then did a television interview in the corner before making his way to the locker room amid more roars.
"I remember my daughter was having a hard time with softball in a semi-final game, striking out," he said. "She was crying, she was mad. I showed her the video of us losing to the Celtics (in the 2008 finals) and me walking off the court crying. I said 'Listen, it's fine, it's fine. You've just got to bounce back'.
"That's the kind of profound impact this building has had."
The Lakers (6-27) led by 11 midway through the fourth quarter when guards Isaiah Thomas and Evan Turner brought the Celtics (18-14) back within two with a 9-0 run.
But Los Angeles guard Jordan Clarkson hit two straight baskets and Bryant all but iced it with his second trey in five tries on the night with 1min 40sec left to make it 107-102.
He then had a big rebound and finally added a free throw with 25.8 seconds remaining.
The reaction of the crowd to Bryant was bizarre.
They treated him to the big ovation when he was introduced but then booed every time he touched the ball.
There was also plenty of cheering when the Lakers scored.
Then, in the final minute, chants of "Ko-be" and "Ko-be Bryant" roared through the crowd.
"It was unbelievable," said Bryant, who has a 11-12 record at Boston for his career.
"It felt great to get booed. The recognition and the top of the game and then as soon as I touched the ball and they booed I was like, 'Oh, I'm home.' It felt great."
Clarkson led the Lakers with 24 points on 10-for-15 shooting.
Thomas was Celtics' top scorer, with 22 points and seven assists.
Bryant, who came in averaging 25.1 points per game in his career against Boston, was averaging 21.3 points over the previous eight games.
He made a flashback spin move on guard Avery Bradley, a quality defender, as part of the big run in the third.
"He made some big shots at the end of the game," Bradley said.