DC’s Newest Villain: The Masked Man
(AP) — After an impressive three-game winning stretch, a banged-up Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers have come back down to earth.
Bryant and the visiting Lakers, though, have a good chance to bounce back from a frustrating loss when they try for a 10th straight victory over the lowly Washington Wizards on Wednesday night.
Sporting a protective mask after suffering a broken nose and a concussion during the All-Star game Feb. 26, Bryant averaged 34.0 points on 38-of-70 shooting (54.3 percent) during Los Angeles’ three-game winning streak following the break.
Bryant’s hot streak ended Tuesday, however, when he went 8 of 26 from the floor and finished with 22 points in an 88-85 overtime loss at Detroit. Though Bryant helped the Lakers (23-15) force overtime by hitting a 19-foot fadeaway at the buzzer, he was held to nine points on 2-of-10 shooting in the first half.
Fellow All-Star Andrew Bynum had a season-high 30 points with 14 rebounds and Pau Gasol added 20 with 10 boards, but Los Angeles lost for just the third time in 11 contests.
“Everyone played a little tired,” said Bryant, the NBA’s leading scorer at 28.7 points per game.
Coach Mike Brown was not happy watching his team shoot 42.0 percent while matching its third-lowest scoring game of the season – despite the extra five minutes – against an opponent that won for the 13th time.
“Nothing went well, and we paid for it with a loss,” Brown said.
Plenty has gone right for the Lakers while averaging 111.3 points on 51.3 percent shooting during a nine-game winning streak over Washington, which dates to a 147-141 overtime home loss Dec. 17, 2006. Los Angeles has won five straight on the road against the Wizards since losing Dec. 26, 2005.
Bryant, who wore two different protective masks Tuesday, has averaged 29.9 points on 47.6 percent shooting in his last 17 games versus Washington – including eight 30-point efforts and three with more than 40.
That does not bode well for the Wizards (8-29), who matched a season high for points allowed Monday during a 120-100 home loss to Golden State. Nick Young scored 25 points off the bench and John Wall added 20 with 14 assists, but Washington trailed 41-24 after one quarter and allowed the Warriors to shoot 54.2 percent two nights after the Wizards snapped a six-game skid with a 101-98 win over Cleveland.
“We get one win and we come in with that effort to start the game,” coach Randy Wittman said. “Inexcusable, and that’s on me. … That is unprofessional. I apologize to everybody that had to watch it.”
Wall has been one of the few reasons for fans to watch the Wizards, averaging 25.7 points on 53.8 percent shooting in his last three games. He scored 22 and recorded 14 assists in his only previous game versus Los Angeles, a 115-108 loss at Staples Center on Dec. 7, 2010.
Like his coach, Wall was not happy about his team’s performance Monday or the club’s current attitude overall.
“Some guys knew, we lost the game before we came on the court,” Wall said. “Too much joking in the locker room. Too much joking through warm-ups.”