Bryant feted but Sixers win at last

Robert Covington acknowledging the cheers during his 23-point effort, as Philadelphia defeated the Lakers 103-91 to halt their 28-game losing run. Kobe Bryant scored 20 points in his home town.
Robert Covington acknowledging the cheers during his 23-point effort, as Philadelphia defeated the Lakers 103-91 to halt their 28-game losing run. Kobe Bryant scored 20 points in his home town.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Philadelphia laud hometown boy and Lakers star as they win for first time in 8 months

LOS ANGELES • Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant heard the cheers on Tuesday in Philadelphia but it was the 76ers who gave the home fans a real reason to roar.

Robert Covington scored 23 points, as the Sixers beat the Lakers 103-91 to win for the first time in 19 National Basketball Association league games this season, and the first time in 29 games dating back to March 25 last season.

The victory came on the same night Bryant began his unofficial farewell tour in his home town. The 37-year-old announced on Sunday that this season, his 20th, would be his last.

One more defeat for the Sixers on Tuesday would have given them sole possession of the record for the worst start to a season in NBA history. Instead, the Lakers tumbled to 2-15, the worst record in the Western Conference.

Jerami Grant and Nerlens Noel added 14 points apiece, while rookie Jahlil Okafor was one of three Philadelphia players to finish with 12 points.

BAD DREAM'S OVER

I'm pleased for the city. We don't want the streak continuing. Obviously, this is a relief on many levels.

BRETT BROWN, Philadelphia 76ers coach, whose team avoided setting a new record for the worst start to an NBA season

"I'm pleased for the city," Sixers coach Brett Brown said. "We don't want the streak continuing. Obviously, this is a relief on many levels."

Bryant was the top scorer for the Lakers, producing 20 points, two assists and five rebounds. His haul also featured four three-pointers.

But his effort was in vain, and his final numbers were just 7-for-26 from the floor. "God knows I can't sustain that level of energy for 48 minutes like I used to," he said.

It promises to be a long goodbye for the veteran superstar in every sense, with the Lakers' inexperienced roster a pale imitation of the five NBA championship-winning teams he played on during the previous decade.

Yet, none of that mattered in Philadelphia. The home fans gave him a standing ovation as he took to the court for the warm-up and again when his name was introduced.

Retired star Julius Erving and Gregg Downer, Bryant's coach at Lower Merion High School, were also on hand to present a framed jersey from his prep years. "I'm not the most emotional person," Bryant said. "I try not to be. But that got to me."

The Sixers also gave him a video tribute.

Forward Julius Randle added 10 first-half points and guard Lou Williams, a former Sixer, added nine as Los Angeles took a 58-50 lead.

Covington had 11 to pace the Sixers before the break.

Philadelphia, who trailed by as many as 14 points in the first half, opened the third quarter with a 19-7 rush to go ahead 69-65.

The Lakers clawed back in front behind Jordan Clarkson, who had 12 points in the third period, but the Sixers notched the last six points of the quarter on two free throws and a dunk by Noel, as well as a jam by Grant.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 03, 2015, with the headline 'Bryant feted but Sixers win at last'. Print Edition | Subscribe