NEW YORK: Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers notched their first win of the NBA season on Friday (Saturday in Manila), rallying for a 104-98 victory over the Brooklyn Nets.
In a Brooklyn arena packed with Bryant fans, the Lakers veteran shook off a slow start to score 18 points.
Rookie point guard D’Angelo Russell had his most productive game yet with 16 points, guard Jordan Clarkson also chipped in 16 and the Lakers upped their defensive intensity — much to the satisfaction of coach Byron Scott.
“We were just much more aggressive,” Scott said. “We played with much more sense of urgency.”
The Nets trailed by as many as 11 points in the fourth quarter and by nine with less than four minutes to play.
And with 25.7 seconds to go they had trimmed the deficit to 98-95 when Nets point guard Jarrett Jack forced a turnover.
In-bounding the ball with a chance to tie the game, the Nets were called for a five-second violation.
Bryant then drained four free throws to rebuild the Lakers’ lead as chants of “Kobe! Kobe!” echoed around the arena.
“It is great the fans appreciate him the way that they do and they’re showing their appreciation,” Scott said.
Even Jack said he could understand the admiration for a rival player at the Nets’ home arena.
“It’s a guy who’s a first ballot Hall of Famer,” he said of the crowd’s reaction to Bryant, who could be heading into retirement after this, his 20th season. “We understand what it is.”
But the defeat was a bitter disappointment for the Nets—who had hoped to reverse their own fortunes against the struggling Lakers.
Instead they fell to 0-6 and remain in search of a first win of the season, along with the Philadelphia 76ers and New Orleans Pelicans.
Raptors fall to Magic
The Toronto Raptors vowed to come back stronger from their first defeat of the NBA season after dropping a 92-87 decision to the Orlando Magic.
“We’ll learn from this,” All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan promised after the Magic ended the Raptors’ club-record season-opening winning streak at five games. “One game is not going to define us.
“But one game can teach you things. You have to be prepared every night if you want to be a contender.”
DeRozan scored a game-high 23 points, including 20 in the second half.
But he missed a crucial free throw that could have tied the game with 25 seconds to play.
When the Raptors regained possession, he failed to get the shot he wanted, and the Magic made four free throws in the waning seconds to seal their first home win of the season.
Orlando forward Tobias Harris scored 20 points and pulled down nine rebounds. Guard Victor Oladipo had 18 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
The Raptors’ defeat left the reigning champion Golden State Warriors as the league’s only unbeaten team.
The streaking Warriors improved to 6-0 with a 119-104 victory over the Denver Nuggets.
Stephen Curry scored 34 points in another dominant performance by the Warriors, who led 40-23 after the first quarter and 74-44 at half time.
Another milestone for James
LeBron James scored 31 points and handed out 13 assists to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 108-102 victory over the winless 76ers.
James became the 20th player in NBA history with 9,000 field goals made in a career — slamming home a dunk in the first half to reach the milestone.
“King” James is one of five active players with 9,000 baskets, along with Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki.
Anthony Davis’s 43 points weren’t enough to lift the Pelicans, who fell 121-115 to the high-flying Atlanta Hawks in New Orleans.
Davis scored 33 points in the second half but the Pelicans fell to 0-5 as Atlanta’s Kyle Korver broke out of his shooting slump with 22 points on perfect eight-for-eight shooting.