LOS ANGELES: With a lead slipping away again, Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant showed his younger teammates how to put away an NBA game.
Bryant, 37 and heading into retirement after this season, drained three three-pointers in the final 6:07, scoring 27 points and grabbing 12 rebounds to lead the Lakers to a 99-96 victory over the Pelicans in New Orleans.
Although the shots sounded the death-knell for the Pelicans, they were greeted by cheers from fans, who like their counterparts around the country have greeted Bryant like one of their own during a season that has turned into a farewell tour.
Bryant, who scored a season-high 38 in a win at Minnesota on Tuesday, has lately given those adoring fans a glimpse of past glories.
“He’s on a nice little roll,” said Lakers coach Byron Scott.
“Our young guys are still so young they don’t understand when you’ve got a double-digit lead you can’t relax,” Scott said. “Not in this league.”
The Lakers led 85-73 with 8:32 to play, but the Pelicans scored six straight points to trim the deficit.
Bryant’s three-pointer with 5:40 to play rebuilt the Lakers lead to 88-79 and they were up 95-86 with 2:50 remaining — helped by Pelicans forward Anthony Davis’s miss of a wide-open dunk.
New Orleans had pulled within 95-92 when Bryant nailed a three-pointer with just under a minute left to make it 98-92.
Once more the Pelicans cut the deficit to two points, but Bryant made a last free-throw to complete the scoring.
“Obviously, Kobe’s leading by example — how to step on people’s necks when you have a chance to,” Scott said.
Point guard Reggie Jackson was the hero for Detroit, draining two three-pointers and handing out a key assist to help the Pistons — who squandered a 27-point lead — hang on for a 111-105 victory over the New York Knicks.
Jackson also made three free throws in the waning seconds as the Pistons out-scored the Knicks 16-8 in the final 1:47.
Jackson’s strong finish came on a night when he was just four-of-14 from the field before his late heroics.
“I don’t really worry,” he said. “I just trust all the work I put in and my teammates were behind me. They kept telling me to just go out there and be myself and bring us home.”
In Phoenix, Houston Rockets forward Corey Brewer scored a season high 24 points, making two three-pointers in the final two minutes as the visitors downed the Suns 111-105.
Brewer’s efforts helped the Rockets overcome a poor shooting night from guard James Harden, who finished connected on just four of 19 shots from the floor en route to 19 points — well below the average of 27.9 he took into the contest.
Houston center Dwight Howard, back from a one-game suspension for swatting the arm of a referee on Saturday, had five points and 16 rebounds.