With Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol returning from injuries and the Washington Wizards owning one of the league’s worst road records, it seemed like an easy win was in store for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Trevor Ariza hit a career-high seven 3-pointers on his way to 25 points, and John Wall added 24 points and 16 assists in helping the Wizards rally from an 18-point second-half deficit to win 103-100 on Friday night.
”I’ve won twice against the Lakers, once at home, and just to come here and win my first game ever at Staples Center is great,” Wall said. ”We just knew what our team was, we’re one of the top defensive teams and when we play defense and play the right way, we have a chance. We just have a lot of heart and character.”
Nene scored 15 points and Martell Webster added 13 for the Wizards, who won their second straight while improving to 7-26 on the road.
”It was a colossal win; it’s awesome, pure joy,” Webster said. ”We were down in that first half mainly because we were getting great looks, we just weren’t making shots and the resilience on defense was immaculate.”
Down 2 points, Bryant missed a short open jumper with 5 seconds to go and Metta World Peace fouled Wall, who made both free throws. After a timeout, Bryant’s 3-pointer drew the Lakers to 101-100 with 2 seconds left. But Bryant fouled Wall with 1 second to go, and he again made both.
The Lakers got the ball to Bryant one last time, and he dribbled while being careful not to step out of bounds before launching a 3-pointer from the right sideline that missed as time expired.
”Just rushed it a little bit, didn’t know how much time I had to get it off,” he said.
Bryant finished with 21 points and 11 assists after missing two games with a sprained left ankle. Dwight Howard added 20 points and 15 rebounds, and Jodie Meeks had 16 points off the bench as the Lakers’ seven-game home winning streak ended.
”It’s a disturbing loss and we’re upset about it,” Bryant said. ”Our defensive intensity slipped a great deal in the second half and they took advantage of it.”
Gasol had four points and eight rebounds playing limited minutes after missing more than six weeks with a right foot injury. He sat most of the fourth and could see what was going wrong.
”We messed up on rotations and left guys wide open. All of a sudden they were in the game,” Gasol said. ”We stopped hustling on certain plays. You can’t allow a guy to take a wide-open shot. It was one thing after another.”
The starting lineup of Bryant, Howard, Gasol, World Peace and Steve Nash fell to 0-6 this season. After struggling with injuries, the Lakers are fielding a near-healthy roster with 12 games to play as they fight to hang on to the eighth and final playoff spot.
”I can’t explain it, but every time we get up 16, it’s like, `Well, we’re really good and we don’t have to play hard’ and we start messing with the game,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. ”When you start messing with not moving the ball, messing with `I’m just going to go one-on-one every time,’ and you start messing with the basketball gods, they will get you. If we don’t change that we obviously won’t make the playoffs.”
The Wizards’ rally that began in the third quarter continued in the fourth, with Ariza’s 3-pointer tying the game and his driving layup providing their first lead, 81-79, with 8:52 left.
Bryant scored 10 of the Lakers’ first 12 points, with his reverse dunk putting them back in front, 86-83. Meeks hit a 3-pointer off an unlikely assist from World Peace, who missed, grabbed his own rebound and barely kept his balance to stay inbounds before firing to Meeks in the right corner for an 89-86 lead.
Ariza’s sixth and seventh 3-pointers twice restored the Wizards’ lead to two points.
”We didn’t get down on ourselves,” he said. ”We kept fighting even when we were down early. We just came out, stuck to our game plan and executed.”
Washington outscored the Lakers 31-17 in the third to close to 74-72. The Wizards ended on an 11-2 run, with Wall and Ariza scoring all their points. Bryant scored just four points and had a turnover as time expired.
The Lakers took a 57-41 halftime lead on the strength of an opening quarter in which they shot 68 percent and led by 16 points. The Wizards played them to a 22-22 tie in the second period despite shooting 36 percent.
NOTES:Lakers F Antawn Jamison sprained his right wrist and an X-ray after the game was negative. He will have a MRI on Saturday. He had 11 points and seven rebounds in 18 minutes. … The Lakers split the season series and fell to 10-3 all-time against the Wizards at Staples Center. … The Lakers open a four-game road trip at Golden State on Monday. … Ariza noted his big game came on his son’s fifth birthday.