In his final game against the Boston Celtics, Kobe Bryant scored 34 points in an impassioned effort that still fell short of a victory. Instead, LA lost its 60th game of the season, 107-100, which has now only happened twice in the history of the franchise—last season being the first 60-loss season in the Lakers' storied history.
"This is probably the first game in a while that [Bryant] was dead serious for the whole game," Lakers coach Byron Scott said after the game. "If you guys were watching his body language, if you were watching his facial expressions, he wasn't joking around tonight. He wasn't smiling with other opponents. He wasn't talking a whole lot."
The 37-year-old's 34 points gave him game-high honors over Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas, who finished with 26 points in the victory. And Bryant even took to guarding Thomas at the end of the game, as the speedy point guard continued to carve up the Lakers throughout the night.
"He was just locked in. Locked in." Lakers rookie Larry Nance Jr. described Bryant's focus. "There was no smiling, no laughing. It was time to win this game. I think towards the end of the game you kind of saw where he just wanted to take over and just will us to victory, but tonight just wasn't the night."
"Coming into tonight, there's three home games left—now two," Bryant explained when asked about his serious approach on Sunday evening. "So, to the extent that my body is going to allow me, I'm going to give the fans what they came to see."
Part of that focus also included Bryant going up and throwing down a two-handed slam dunk.
While Bryant came in focused and determined to compete from the opening tip, his teammates struggled to turn up for the umpteenth time in the 60-loss season. LA fell behind by as many as 17 points in the first half, which implored the Lakers' coach to ask his players a rather interesting series of questions during the intermission.
"I said, 'How many of you guys have been in a real fist fight?' Seriously," Scott recalled a few players raised their hands at the halftime talk. "And then, the question was, 'Okay, in that fist fight, how many times did you just stand there and let him punch you in your face before you got ready to fight?' Same thing in basketball."
Scott continued, "You can't come out and take the first seven or eight punches because most of the time the fight might be over. Our guys got to realize that when you step on the court to start the game, it can't be, 'let me get warmed up or let me get loose.'"
In the second half, the Lakers came out fighting and took a three-point lead less than six minutes into the third quarter. From there, LA and Boston engaged in a back and forth contest. However, the Celtics simply had more firepower and created just enough of a cushion to hold of the Lakers' late rally.
Bryant played a healthy 33 minutes in the loss and walked off the court to a standing ovation at the final buzzer. Likely, no team in the history of basketball has lost its 60th game in a season at home to its most hated rival and still received a standing ovation.
"I didn't hear it when I was walking off the court, but the one thing I know is that we've got great fans," Scott said when informed of the ovation. "I think our fans understand that the last two years have been tough, and they're hanging in there just like we are."
Bryant only has six games remaining in his NBA career with a back-to-back against the LA Clippers coming on Tuesday and Wednesday and a game in New Orleans to launch the final road trip on Friday.
Quote of the Night:
"'Give me the ball.' It was all 'Give me the ball.'" - Lakers guard D'Angelo Russell relating Bryant's instructions and interactions with him late in the game.