Los Angeles Lakers hold off Washington Wizards as road losing streak continues
Wednesday, December 8, 2010; 3:09 AM
LOS ANGELES -- John Wall saw Los Angeles Lakers point guard Derek Fisher charging toward the hoop and was prepared for Fisher to attempt one of those floaters that he used so many times throughout his career. Wall timed his jump, soared high in the air, then sent Fisher's shot into the front row at Staples Center.
With the Washington Wizards seemingly on their way to getting routed by the two-time defending champion Lakers late in the third quarter, Wall sent a message to his teammates and anyone else watching that this wasn't going to be a night when they had another rollover defeat. As the game progressed, Wall continued to dazzle with his playmaking ability, fellow rookies Kevin Seraphin and Trevor Booker did their part to make the Lakers uncomfortable offensively, and Los Angeles natives Gilbert Arenas and Nick Young filled the gaps offensively.
But after rallying back from a 19-point second-half deficit to get within four points in the final minute, the Wizards were unable to finish the task and lost their 11th consecutive road game, 115-108.
"We gave a great fight, when we came back from 19 down. Losing a close one, we showed a lot of heart, but little key mistakes here and there, we were right there until the end," Wall said after scoring 22 points to go with career highs with assists (14) and blocked shots (3). "We knew it wasn't going to be easy with the best closer in the game, defending champs. We knew it was going to be tough, but we did a great job of fighting."
Kobe Bryant led all scorers with 32 points and put the Wizards away from the foul line, with fans serenading him with chants of "MVP! MVP!" After the game, Bryant immediately called over Wall and passed on some words of encouragement. "I think he has a lot of talent and potential," Bryant said of Wall afterward. "I'm very hopeful when I see guys like that, that can carry the league for years to come. I just want guys like that to just continue to work and stay focused."
Wall had his best performance in this third game since returning from a bruised left knee, and he left fans at Staples Center in awe with his blazing speed and athleticism. He smiled after nearly every made basket, flailed him arms wildly after finding Booker inside for a dunk in the fourth quarter, and recorded blocks against Fisher, Bryant and 7-foot center Pau Gasol.
But he got considerable help from Young, a Southern Cal alum, who scored a season-high 30 points and connected on a career-high six three-pointers off the bench. He provided some incredible highlight plays, including an impressive 360-degree pirouette to get around Lamar Odom and make a bank shot in the first half. He also provided a scare late, when he dove over the first row attempting to chase down a loose ball.
"We know when Nick Young comes to town we're just going to give up 25 points," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. "This kid is going to come back to LA and have a great game."
Matched up against Bryant most of the night, Young exchanged some trash talk and got tangled with him on a few occasions. "I wasn't backing down from the challenge," Young said. "With the momentum we had, I wasn't going to let my team slack or myself slack out there. I always want to come out, perform well in front of my home team. But we need to get a victory at some time. I ain't got a victory yet in L.A. I thought the basketball Gods was going to give us a chance."
Arenas -- who replaced Kirk Hinrich in the starting lineup after coming off the bench the past two games -- scored 23 points, despite being guarded by taller, more physical defenders in Ron Artest and Matt Barnes. Arenas brought the Wizards within 112-108 with an 18-foot jumper with 57.9 seconds remaining, but Gasol ensured the Wizards wouldn't score again by swatting a late three-point attempt by Arenas.
Gasol fell two assists short of a triple-double with 21 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists, while Lamar Odom added 24 as the Lakers beat the Wizards for the eighth consecutive time.
The Wizards (6-14) were dominated for much of the game, with the Lakers controlling the boards and scoring inside with limited resistance. Early in the third period, Bryant flipped a behind-the-back pass to a trailing Gasol for a breakaway dunk that appeared to signal the rout was on. But the scrappy comeback started shortly after Wall's impressive block on Fisher, who was seeking a foul call before picking up a technical foul moments later that helped spark the Wizards back to life.
When Jackson sat Bryant for 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. Coach Flip Saunders said the difference came the moment he inserted Booker and Seraphin in favor of starters JaVale McGee and Yi Jianlian, who was given the start with Andray Blatche missing his first game of the season after suffering a bruised left hip during Sunday night's loss in Phoenix. Blatche remains questionable for Wednesday's game in Sacramento.
"The last three, four games, our up front people have been soft, and haven't given a presence," Saunders said. "Finally at the end, Seraphin and Booker really competed."
Seraphin turned 21 on Tuesday and finished with a career-high four blocked shots, and Booker had a career high 14 points on an assortment of difficult layups and dunks. "I went in to play defense and things went my way on the offensive end," Booker said. "We knew we had to do something while we were out there, so we just tried to bring a lot of energy, keep fighting. We almost pulled it out."