WASHINGTON (AP) Straining to work out the kinks in an offense coach Mike D’Antoni compared to dancing with two left feet, Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers even struggled to put away the Washington Wizards.
A night after joking about wanting to face the Washington Generals, the Harlem Globetrotters’ longtime foils, Bryant scored 30 points, and reserve Jodie Meeks added 24, helping the Lakers beat the Wizards 102-96 on Friday to end a four-game losing streak.
Slowed by foul trouble, Dwight Howard finished with 12 points and 14 rebounds, and the Lakers improved to 10-14.
Cartier Martin scored a season-high 21 points for Washington, which fell to an NBA-worst 3-17.
But the Wizards led by as many nine points in the first half and, after trailing by as many 16 in the second, closed to 92-89 on Nene’s free throws with 5 1/2 minutes left in the game.
Los Angeles pulled away from there, despite D’Antoni’s less-than-flattering description before the game.
“Every good offense is a rhythm, and our rhythm is offbeat right now,” D’Antoni said. “It’s like we’ve got two left shoes, trying to dance.”
Playing on the second consecutive night, D’Antoni had his players do a film session and walkthrough at a ballroom at their hotel before facing Washington.
After his team’s 116-107 loss at the New York Knicks on Thursday night, Bryant opined: “At this point, I wish we had the Washington Generals on our schedule.”
Instead, they got the Wizards, who actually took a 41-32 lead on Martin’s three-point play with 7 1/2 minutes left in the second quarter. That’s when Bryant, who’s dealing with a bad back, returned to the floor after resting for the start of the period. That’s also when Howard sat with three fouls.
The Lakers outscored the hosts 26-14 the rest of the half to lead 58-55 at the break.
Neither of these teams is whole at the moment.
The Lakers are still without Steve Nash and Pau Gasol, and Jordan Hill sat out Friday with back spasms. The Wizards have been without point guard John Wall, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft, all season, and they’re also missing forwards Trevor Ariza and Trevor Booker, along with point guard A.J. Price at the moment.
A pair of 10-0 runs by Los Angeles in the third quarter appeared to put the outcome beyond doubt.
The second spurt included eight consecutive points from Bryant, who hit a pair of free throws, a 12-foot step-back jumper – with 4 minutes left in the quarter, it was Bryant’s first field goal since the final 10 seconds of the opening period – a 17-foot pull-up jumper, and then a tap-in off an alley-oop pass that made it 78-64.
On that last play, Bryant got knocked to the court. He stayed down on the baseline for a few moments, then moved around gingerly for a bit.
He stayed in, however, and kept scoring.
With Washington within five and 4 1/2 minutes left, Martell Webster was called for a foul on Bryant on a 3-point attempt, even though a replay appeared to show no contact.
Bryant made all three free throws, and the Lakers were on their way, awkward offense and all.
NOTES: Nene and Webster each scored 17 for the Wizards. … Minus Gasol and Hill, D’Antoni gave F Devin Ebanks his first start of the season. … Wall can “ramp things up” as he recovers from a stress injury to his left knee cap, coach Randy Wittman said, but there’s still no specific timetable for his return. Wall was re-examined in New York by Dr. David Altchek, who said Wall is showing improvement but that there is still some irritation in the knee. Altchek said Wall has been treated with three lubricating injections. … Booker also visited Altchek because of a strained right knee that has sidelined him since getting injured Nov. 19 in a game against the Indiana Pacers. Booker said he will get a platelet-rich plasma injection from a Wizards team doctor on Monday, then will need to sit out about a week before “building back up.”