The Golden State Warriors were the last team in the NBA to play a home game following the death of Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others on January 26 in a helicopter crash into a hillside in Calabasas. And accordingly, they too honored the late Lakers star and the other victims Saturday night, Los Angeles Times reported.
But the emotion of the moment was not the cause of the Lakers being so sloppy before they pulled out a 125-120 win over the short-handed Warriors.
The Lakers had dealt with the experience before – first at STAPLES Center, then last Saturday in Sacramento – and they were expecting another one.
“We know probably going into every arena from now to the rest of the season, it’s probably going to be some type of Kobe tribute,” Anthony Davis said after producing 27 points and 10 rebounds.
“Coach [Frank Vogel] had a great talk with us about how to handle that and being prepared for it. It’s something that we expect every time that we go on the road and try to use that as motivation for us to get the win.”
The Lakers (39-12) got this win behind LeBron James, who came up two rebounds shy of a triple-double with 22 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds. His three-pointer with 16.9 seconds left sealed the game, giving the Lakers a 124-116 lead.
They had built a 21-point lead in the third quarter, but saw it trimmed to 117-112 late in the fourth. They had 24 turnovers, which allowed the Warriors to get back in the game.
Golden State was playing for the first time since trading six players last week, including former Laker D’Angelo Russell, and also missing forward Draymond Green (back tightness).
Andrew Wiggins, the newest Warrior, scored 24 points on eight-for-12 shooting with five steals in his debut.
“Even when we don’t play our best and even though we had some slippage today, you can always appreciate being able to get a win in this league, which is always difficult,” James said. “But we’re a veteran ballclub and we know didn’t play our best basketball. It starts with me, having seven turnovers, and it trickled down to everybody else.
“It started with me, so I got to be better and hold myself more accountable as well to get us off to a better start.”
Before the game, the Warriors showed a video montage of Bryant’s highlights and had nine beams of lights on the court to honor the victims. The Warriors also asked for 24 seconds of silence.
“We’ll all still grieving,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.
“It’s an amazing sense of loss even for those of us who didn’t know him. Everything feels hollow and we grieve for Kobe and Gianna and of course the other families.
“It’s something that’s not going to get any easier right away.”