On Monday night, Kobe Bryant returned to the city that drafted him into the NBA back in 1996 one last time, and Michael Jordan offered a video tribute to mark the occasion, but ultimately, Kemba Walker and the hometown Charlotte Hornets defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 108-98.
"It was awesome," Bryant said about the tribute, though he admitted knowing it was coming in advance since he had talked to Jordan recently (via TWC SportsNet).
Walker scored 38 points and led all scorers by a healthy margin, as Bryant's 20 points ranked as second-highest in the contest. Bryant scored 16 of his 20 points in the first half, which hinted as his inability to find any rhythm down the stretch with the game on the line.
For the most part, Monday's game provided a competitive contest, as the Lakers and Hornets exchanged leads 21 times. Neither team led by more than seven points through the first three quarters, and the Lakers finished with six different players scoring in double figures, so LA played a good game until a late offensive drought brought about the team's 27th loss in 32 games.
Looking for positives in the loss, rookie Larry Nance Jr. followed up his first career double-double with 12 points and seven rebounds on 6-7 shooting from the field. For the second night in a row, Nance looked comfortable shooting the midrange jump shot in the flow of the offense, and Nance's only miss came late in the game when the Lakers' ball movement dissipated.
Beyond Nance, the Lakers' bench also came through in a big way. Brandon Bass continued his recent strong play with 12 points off the bench, which included the veteran hitting all five of his field goal attempts and both of his free throws. Also, Nick Young made three of his four attempts from long range, but unfortunately, all other Lakers combined to make only six of 25 attempts from distance.
Monday's game seemingly tilted on the decision to play Bryant in the fourth quarter after he had wrapped his shoulder and sat on the bench for the bulk of the second half. When the 37-year-old entered for the final time, the Lakers trailed by three points with the clock counting down from 7:18. Over the next six minutes and 11 seconds, Bryant attempted seven shots and only made one. When he exited the game with 1:07 remaining, the Lakers trailed by 11 points, which was the largest lead of the game.
Along with Bryant, Lou Williams also struggled down the stretch, as the shooting guard only hit one of his five shots over the final 12 minutes of the fourth quarter.
Eventually, the Lakers lost by a final count of 108-98. Next, the Lakers finish 2015 on Dec. 30 in Boston.
Notes: D'Angelo Russell logged 23 and a half minutes and finished with five points, four assists, three steals and two rebounds. The 19-year-old rookie also committed three turnovers. Julius Randle scored 11 points and grabbed 6 rebounds in 19 minutes.