Even in his final season, Kobe Bryant knows how to beat the Denver Nuggets. The Los Angeles Lakers veteran guard led his team to a 111-107 win in Mile High City matching a season-high 31 points.
Bryant, who also scored 31 in a 108-104 win over the Washington Wizards on Dec. 2, missed the Lakers’ previous game with a shoulder injury and returned in vintage form for his team, which improved to 5-23 for the season -- still the worst in the Western Conference and still lottery-bound.
Bryant also had 5 assists and played good defense on Nuggets guard Will Barton, who exploded for 23 points in the first half but had measly 2 points after the halftime break. Denver started well leading 34-26 after the first quarter and 64-51 after the first half. However, the Lakers outscored them 32-16 in the third quarter and grabbed the 83-80 lead entering the final period.
Jordan Clarkson had 19 points, 8 rebounds and 3 steals while starters Lou Williams and Larry Nance Jr. added 17 and 10 points, respectively. Off the bench, Brandon Bass contributed 11 points and 4 blocked shots while second-year forward Julius Randle had 9 points and 10 rebounds.
Playing without starting forward Danilo Gallinari, Denver got 21 points from Gary Harris and 14 points and 9 rebounds from Kenneth Faried. Nikola Jokic added 15 points off the bench for the Nuggets, which dropped to 11-17 for the season.
The Lakers face the Oklahoma City Thunder Wednesday before the Christmas Day match-up with Hollywood rivals, Los Angeles Clippers. Denver will face the Phoenix Suns and San Antonio Spurs in their next two games.