Throwback … Tuesday? Kobe scores 31 in Lakers comeback win

Maybe it’s just a coincidence that Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant has been playing like an All-Star since he announced his retirement. Maybe it has more to do with his health, as Bryant has acknowledged that his back is feeling better and his legs are back beneath him.

Whatever the case, one thing’s for sure — what once looked like it might be a somber farewell tour for the future Hall of Famer has turned into a celebration. The party continued on Tuesday night as Bryant led the Lakers all the way back from a 21-point deficit against the Denver Nuggets to a 111-107 win on the road. It’s the Lakers’ fifth win of the season, to go with 23 losses.

Bryant had 31 points, rattling off some of his classic post moves and knocking down big 3-pointers. He even threw in a clutch dagger for good measure with less than a minute left and the Lakers up by five:

We couldn’t say it better than Roy Hibbert’s shrugging reaction to Bryant’s final bucket.

The Black Mamba didn’t just star on offense, though. He locked up Nuggets wing Will Barton in the second half, a tough feat for most NBA opponents. Barton’s been a solid Sixth Man of the Year candidate early on as he’s carried the load for a Nuggets team that lacks scoring punch. He finished with 25 points on 10-for-21 shooting, but he had just two points and one assist in the second half with Bryant on the job.

It hasn’t all been smooth sailing for Bryant. He injured his shoulder recently in a loss to the Houston Rockets — a game in which Bryant had his first dunk of the season, no less — and he needed a day off as the Lakers took on the Oklahoma City Thunder. But the pain was readily relieved with a little cinematic experience:

Ignoring that little hiccup, though, Bryant’s been on a roll. Tuesday was his fourth consecutive game with at least 20 points, and he tied his season-high with those 31 points against the Nuggets. He’s up to 17.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game on the season.

The Lakers turn around and play the Thunder on Wednesday, have a day off Christmas Eve and then face the Clippers to end the NBA’s Christmas Day marathon on Friday.

If this is the Kobe we can expect, it’ll be a very merry Christmas indeed.

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