“Awesome. Pure joy. A colossal win,” forward Martell Webster said. “This is probably the best. They brought everybody back and respect to them, because they respected us. And that’s why Kobe and Pau came back. They’re making a push, so whenever we can upset somebody making a push, it makes it that much more sweet. We don’t have a chance to get into the playoffs but we have a chance to upset some people.”
Without Emeka Okafor and Bradley Beal, the Wizards were bound to have problems against the Lakers, even if they didn’t have Kobe Bryant or Pau Gasol. But with that duo returning, giving the Lakers their ideal starting lineup for the first in more than two months, the Wizards simply needed to avoid embarrassment.
That simple task was challenge for the Wizards, as they quickly fell behind by 18 points in the first half.
Wall scored 24 points and handed out a career-high 16 assists, Ariza nailed a career-high seven three-pointers to finish with 25 points and Nene scored five of his 15 points in the last two minutes as the Wizards (25-43) beat the Lakers in Los Angeles for the first time since Dec. 17, 2006. They were able to withstand a late Bryant barrage and hold off a well-rested Lakers team that hadn’t played since losing on Monday in Phoenix.
“Just to come here and win my first game at Staples Center was great. Everybody doubted us when they brought Kobe and Pau back. We just have a lot of heart and character,” said Wall, who has led the Wizards to a 20-15 record since returning. “My confidence is probably the highest I had since I was 14 playing AAU. I’m growing before my eyes and maturing as a point guard, running the show and with time and clock situations.”
Bryant was content playing the role of facilitator through the first three quarters, as he had more assists (11) than field goal attempts (eight), but with the game getting out of control, he put the Lakers on his back and carried them in the final period. Bryant scored 13 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter, including four straight to give the Lakers a 97-94 lead.
“He hits that three and we can’t guard it any better. We can’t guard it any better,” Coach Randy Wittman said of Bryant. “I didn’t look at that last one. I’ve seen him do it too often. He’s the most incredible player in making a shot like the one he missed.”