Kobe returns with heroics in Memphis
Hitting a game-winning shot never gets old for Kobe Bryant.
"Every time it feels like the first time," he said.
Bryant returned to lineup after missing five games with an ankle injury and made a 3-pointer with 4.3 seconds left to lift the Los Angeles Lakers to 99-98 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies Tuesday night.
Bryant led the Lakers with 32 points, including his team's final nine points. His 3-pointer with 54 seconds left tied the game at 96-all. His game-winner came off an inbounds play 4 seconds after his layup attempt was blocked by Rudy Gay.
"He kept making plays at the end of the game," Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said of Bryant. "Great players make great plays. You've got to give him his due (but) it hurts."
Bryant's late scoring spree came after the Lakers had missed five straight free throws and trailed, 95-90, with 2:59 left. He began his nine-point run with a jumper from the left wing with 2:23 to go to trim the Memphis lead to 95-92.
After Gay's free throw, Bryant dropped in a technical free throw to make it 96-93. Gay scored again with 40 seconds left to up the Grizzlies lead to 98-93 before Bryant's back-to-back 3-pointers won it for the Lakers.
"Only in Hollywood, I guess," Bryant said. "It's fun. It's my responsibility to make plays down the stretch. I enjoy it."
Pau Gasol added 22 points and 13 rebounds for the Lakers, who won for the seventh time in their last eight road games.
"Nobody in the world is shocked anymore by what Kobe Bryant does and what he brings to the team," Gasol said. "He really stepped up at the end. It feels good to have him back."
The Grizzlies, who lost their fifth straight home game, were led by O.J. Mayo's 25 points. Zach Randolph scored 20 and grabbed 14 rebounds, his seventh straight double-double.
Mayo's two missed free throws with 18.8 seconds allowed the Lakers an opportunity to complete a comeback from nine points down early in the fourth quarter. Had Mayo made his free throws, the Grizzlies would have led by four.
"I'd love to take those last two free throws again," Mayo said. "I'd love to take them and make them."
Mayo had a last-second opportunity to win it for the Grizzlies, but his long jumper bounced off the rim as the buzzer sounded.
Absent from the Lakers lineup for his longest stretch in five years, Bryant scored nine points in the opening quarter, including a four-point play, and triggered a late first-quarter run with two breakaway dunks to increase the Lakers lead to 11.
Bryant last played Feb. 5 and Los Angeles went 4-1 without him.
The Grizzlies took their first lead early in the third quarter on a 3-pointer by Mayo for a 59-56 advantage and didn't trail again until Bryant's game-winning shot.
Bryant, averaging 42.5 points against Memphis in two previous games this season, began his late nine-point run with a jumper from the left wing with 2:23 to go to trim the Memphis lead to 95-92.
With Bryant scoring 17 of his points in the first half, the Lakers built several 14-point leads before settling for a 53-48 halftime advantage.
"We gave ourselves an opportunity to win the game," Hollins said. "But Kobe was better. That's the bottom line."
Notes: Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph broke Pau Gasol's single-season franchise record for offensive rebounds (238). Playing in his 56th game of the season, Randolph grabbed four offensive rebounds to increase his total to 242. Gasol played for Memphis from 2001 and 2008. . . . The game attracted the third sellout (18,119) to the FedExForum this season.