Tuesday's Late game
Wizards stay in it, then lose to Lakers
LOS ANGELES - Los Angeles Lakers guard Derek Fisher stole the ball from Yi Jianlian and fed Kobe Bryant, who spotted Gilbert Arenas waiting in the paint. Bryant flipped a behind-the-back pass to a streaking Pau Gasol for a breakaway dunk to give the defending champion Lakers a huge lead early in the third period.
It appeared that the Washington Wizards were headed toward another rollover defeat on the road. The Lakers led by 18 points with less than five minutes remaining in the period, but the Wizards had some fight in them, inspired by Los Angeles natives Nick Young and Gilbert Arenas, and the team's three first-round picks, John Wall, Kevin Seraphin and Trevor Booker. They eventually got within three points before the start of the fourth period, and hung around perhaps longer than the Lakers had expected.
The Wizards trailed by just four points with 57.9 seconds remaining when Arenas buried a step-back jumper, but they were unable to get any closer, as they lost their 11th consecutive game on the road, 115-108, at Staples Center. Bryant led all scorers with 32 points and put the Wizards away from the free throw line, with fans serenading him with chants of "MVP! MVP!"
Southern Cal alum Young scored a season-high 30 points and connected on a career-high six three-pointers off the bench. Wall had his best performance in this third game since returning from a bruised left knee, as he scored 22 points and left fans in awe with his blazing speed and athleticism. After Wall broke down the Lakers' defense for a driving layup in the fourth quarter, Wall looked along the first row and smiled. Wall finished with a season-high 14 assists and showed unbridled joy almost every time one his teammates scored. He also had three blocks, including an impressive rejection on the 7-foot Gasol.
Wall also was able to have a solid scoring outing on the same night as Arenas, who scored 23 points, despite being guarded by taller, more physical defenders in Ron Artest and Matt Barnes. Booker's defense and hustle made a difference, but he also added a career-high 14 points.
Gasol came two assists short of a triple-double with 21 points, 14 rebounds and 8 assists, while Lamar Odom added 24 as the Lakers beat the Wizards for the eighth time in a row.
The Wizards (6-14) trailed by as much as 19 in the second half, but the scrappy play started with Wall's impressive block over Fisher. Fisher was seeking a foul, but moments later he picked up a technical foul that helped bring the Wizards back to life. With Bryant sitting the final 3 minutes 27 seconds of the third period, the Wizards closed on 15-1 run to enter the final period trailing 87-84.
Young, Wall and Arenas provided the scoring, while Seraphin and Booker provided the rugged, physical play.
The Wizards had to change something with the team starting the season with 10 consecutive road losses, but just as Flip Saunders was prepared to make two adjustments to his starting lineup, he was forced to make another.
Andray Blatche was ruled out before the game with a left hip contusion, which eliminated one of the two players who had started in each of the first 19 games this season. The other, Kirk Hinrich, was benched in favor of Arenas, who had come off the bench the past two games. Saunders spoke to Hinrich about making the switch the day before after practice, and he also replaced Alonzo Gee with Al Thornton.
In his third game since returning from a hyperextended right knee, Yi got his first start of the season in place of Blatche, who wasn't sure how or when he suffered the injury. Blatche "doesn't seem to be able to get it loose to get it to go. He can't get up and down with it," Saunders said of Blatche. He added that Blatche's loss "hurts a lot" but he will be questionable for Wednesday's game against Sacramento.
With Blatche gone, the Lakers' front line of Odom and Gasol dominated the Wizards on the glass, helping their team have few wasted possessions. After the first period, Gasol had six rebounds to match the Wizards. The Lakers scored 36 points on 15 field goals, but they manage rebound seven of their missed shots.
Young again had a big night against the Lakers, as he scored 19 points in the first half. Young provided several highlights in the first half. Bryant was guarding Young at the top of the key, but Young darted past a Hilton Armstrong screen then used a 360-pirouette move to get around Odom and make a bank shot. Young and Wall helped the Wizards battle back from a 15-point second-quarter deficit. Young had 15 points in the second period, and Wall had 11 points and four assists, including a nifty dish to JaVale McGee for a dunk that brought the Wizards within 50-46 with 5:50 left in the half. The Lakers responded with a 17-6 run and took a 67-52 lead on a Bryant layup. They led by 13 at halftime, with Bryant and Gasol combining for 35.