LOS ANGELES – It was Kobe's final game at Staples Center on Tuesday night –well, kind of – technically speaking, it was Kobe's final game as a "visitor" inside Staples Center.
Kobe scored just six points on 2-of-12 shooting in the Lakers 103-81 whooping at the hands of the hallway rival Clippers in his final game at Staples Center when the floor is painted red and blue.
"I hate to see him go out this way. It bothers the hell out of me," said Lakers coach Byron Scott. "He still has the heart of a champion. That will never leave him."
Tomorrow night, the floor will change colors to purple and gold, and Kobe will play his final game against the Clippers before the Lakers head out onto the road for the final three games of the "Kobe Farewell Tour." The future Hall of Fame guard will play his last game ever at Staples Center on Wednesday, April 13, against the Utah Jazz.
The Clippers dominated the game from start to finish as they jumped out to an early 20-2 lead before fans could finish their hot dogs. The Lakers cut the lead to eight at halftime, 52-44, but Lob City doubled them up in the third quarter and led by as many as 27 points in the final frame.
Chris Paul led the Clippers with 25 points and eight assists in just 23 minutes of play. Jeff Green added 21 points off the bench.
"I think Doc saw something with me in the second unit as far as being more of a threat," Green said of his scoring off the bench. "The floor is more spead out and it gives me a better opportunity to score. There's more space and we vibe out there."
Blake Griffin played his second game since coming back from an injury and a four-game suspension. Griffin struggled for the second game in a row, scoring just 4 points on 1-of-5 shooting in 17 minutes of play.
"I'm just a step slow, a step behind," he said. "It will come back."
The lackluster Lakers somehow still managed to have four players in double-figures as D'Angelo Russell and Ryan Kelly scored 12 points each. Jordan Clarkson chipped in 10, and Metta World Peace had a team-high 17.
The lopsided score was not an indication of the undying love inside Staples Center for Bryant. Fans chanted "MVP! MVP" every time Kobe touched the ball, and chanted "We Want Kobe!" during the fourth quarter as the 20-year NBA veteran sat on the bench.
The best exchange of the night was not trash-talking between Bryant and his friend/rival Paul, but rather between Kobe and the Clippers No. 1 fan, Clipper Darrell. "Kobe, I love you!" chanted Darrell from the stands while Kobe sat on the bench icing his ailing joints. Bryant responded by tapping his heart with his fist.
"I'm going to miss Clipper Darrell, his passion, his enthusiasm for the game…" Bryant said.
Players of the Game:
Chris Paul: 25 points, eight assists, four rebounds and two steals
Jeff Green: 21 points
Metta World Peace: 17 points, five rebounds, two steals.
1. Doc Remembers Kobe: "The funniest moment, and Kobe knows this, but the funniest moment was when we were up by 1,000 in Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals and the guy who you'd least expect walks over to me during the game, Tom Thibodeau, and asks me, 'Are you going to sub out? There's six minutes left. We're up 42 points. 'Of all the guys to say that, it was Tom Thibodeau. And I looked over there on the floor and Kobe was still on the floor. I actually said, 'When Phil [Jackson] takes that guy out, I'll take my guys out.' And Thibs says, "You're safe.' And I said, 'Not with that guy on the floor.' He put the fear in you."
2. Can I get an Encore?: The Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers will do it all over again tomorrow night when the Lakers are officially the home team. The colors of the floor will change, but the "Kobe!" chants will not as Bryant plays his second to last game at Staples Center.
3. Rusty Griffin: Blake Griffin still needs time to get back into playing shape. The All-Star forward – playing in just his second game since Christmas Day – scored just four points on 1-of-5 shooting on Tuesday.
The Los Angeles Lakers (16-61) will return to the same place, at the same time, in the same locker room tomorrow night when they host the Clippers at 7:30PM PST.
The Clippers (49-28) return to Staples Center tomorrow as the road team when they look to sweep the season series with the Lakers.
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