Bryant scores 31 as Lakers beat Nuggets 111-107
DENVER (AP) Kobe Bryant tied a season high with 31 points after missing a game with a sore right shoulder, and the Los Angeles Lakers rallied from a 21-point, first-half deficit to beat the short-handed Denver Nuggets 111-107 on Tuesday night.
Bryant also had five assists and played stellar defense to help bottle up the hot-shooting Will Barton, who had 23 points in the first half only to finish with 25.
The 37-year-old Bryant announced last month he would retire after the season. He received plenty of cheers during his penultimate game in the Mile High City, including chants of ''Kobe! Kobe!'' in the waning seconds.
Up 103-100 with 1:23 remaining, Bryant hit two free throws and then a jumper to seal the Lakers' fifth win of the season.
The Nuggets were without Danilo Gallinari (sprained left ankle) and Emmanuel Mudiay (sprained right ankle). Gary Harris went down with a strained right knee early in the game, but returned to score 21 points, tying a career high.
Denver's reserves actually outscored the starters by a 58-49 margin.
Los Angeles turned things around in the third quarter thanks to a 27-10 run, with Bryant leading the way. He didn't play in Oklahoma City on Saturday because of a sore shoulder, two days after dunking for the first time this season against Houston.
And while coach Byron Scott said his star's shoulder was still ''a little sore,'' it hardly showed. He also had five assists, including a behind-the-back pass in the third quarter that set up a 3-pointer by Lou Williams.
Barton entered after Harris went down and was instant offense, scoring 18 points in 8:29.
Lakers: Former Lakers star Shaquille O'Neal was among the candidates for the recently announced Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame's class of 2016. ''Be surprising if he wasn't,'' Scott said. … The Lakers arrived in Denver a few days early to try to get acclimated to the altitude. … C Roy Hibbert received a technical foul in the second quarter for stuffing the ball in Joffrey Lauvergne's chest after a whistle. … Jordan Clarkson had 19 points.
Nuggets: Coach Michael Malone gave his team a break from morning shootaround. ''I thought it was in the best interest to give them the morning off,'' Malone said. ''We have a very banged-up team right now.'' … Broncos RB C.J. Anderson and safety T.J. Ward sat courtside. … Nikola Jokic had 15 points and 10 boards.
Scott has seen a more relaxed Bryant since announcing his retirement. The coach just wishes the Lakers were more competitive in Bryant's farewell season.
''I don't think any of us wanted his last season to be like this,'' Scott said. ''We wanted him to go out on top, have a chance to win another championship. The reality is that's not going to happen.
''He's been great as far as a mentorship to these guys, trying to just show them how to play every single night.''
Lakers: Host Oklahoma City on Wednesday.
Nuggets: At Phoenix on Wednesday.