Monday, March 31, 2008

LOS ANGELES — It had the makings of a Disney movie.

With his Washington Wizards trailing his hometown Los Angeles Lakers and Kobe Bryant the player he grew up idolizing rookie Nick Young got the call and had the game of his life. He hit a fadeaway over Bryant, knocked down crucial shots with defenders running at him, scored a career high and had family and friends going wild in the stands.

All that was missing was the ending. Young and the Wizards came up short by two plays and suffered a 126-120 loss in overtime to the Lakers last night at Staples Center.

After scoring just two points in the first half, Young went off for 25 points in the final 29 minutes, including 15 in the fourth quarter and six in overtime to finish with a game-high 27 points. But he had a turnover that resulted in Bryant going to the line and making the foul shots that gave the Lakers the lead for good, putting them up 121-120 with 37 seconds left.

Young also had a look at a shot that would have given the Wizards (38-35) the lead with 18 seconds left, but the ball clanked off the front of the rim.

It was a heartbreaker. It would’ve been [great to] to come home and get the win, Young said. But that’s Kobe, and they’re a great team.

The Wizards held Bryant in check for much the game, holding him to six points in the first half and 13 through three quarters. But Bryant scored 13 points in the fourth quarter and overtime.

The Wizards trailed 72-63 midway through the third quarter but fought their way back into the game with a 14-6 run that cut the lead to 78-77. Young and Caron Butler, who finished with his third triple-double of the season, each hit a pair of free throws to tie the game at 86-86 heading into the fourth quarter.

Young who saw extensive action because Antonio Daniels left in the first quarter with a sprained wrist continued to shine. He gave them their first lead since the first half 15 seconds into the fourth quarter and hit a 3-pointer to tie the score at 105-105 with 2:47 left in regulation.

Bryant, who finished with 26 points and 13 assists, gave his team the lead with a baseline jam and eventually gave the Lakers a three-point lead after a pair of free throws, but Washington’s Caron Butler drilled a 3-pointer with 10.1 seconds left on the clock to tie the game at 111-111.

Young scored seven more points in overtime.

The Lakers’ Derek Fisher hit a 3-pointer to pull his team within 118-117 with 1:40 left to play, then Young answered with an 18-foot jumper that gave Washington a 120-117 lead.

Fisher then hit a shot just inside of 3-point range to trim the lead to one again, and Young went up in traffic on the other end and tried to kick the ball out to the perimeter, where he had seen Butler lurking. But when Young went up, Butler crashed the paint for the rebound and Young’s pass went out of bounds.

Bryant drew a foul from Stevenson on the other end and hit both foul shots to give his team a 121-120 lead. The Wizards had to foul the rest of the way, and the Lakers (50-24) made three of their last four foul shots.

Butler attempted a 27-footer with 10 seconds left, but the shot was errant, and the Lakers lobbed the outlet pass to Luke Walton for a clinching fast-break dunk.

It was a terrific game to watch, great for the fans, great for us to be a part of, Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. I’m happy for Nick Young. I’m proud of my guys. We played a team that executed down the stretch, got what they needed down the stretch, and we just couldn’t come home with it.

DeShawn Stevenson also finished with 27 points for the Wizards. He made a career-high eight 3-pointers in the losing effort. Butler finished with 17 points, 12 rebounds and a career-high 12 assists, and Antawn Jamison added 17 points and nine rebounds.

The Wizards made a season-high 17 3-pointers five more than their previous best and notched 29 assists, which tied a season high.

The defeat dropped Washington to 2-2 on this five-game road trip, which will conclude tonight in Utah.

The Wizards trailed the Lakers midway through the first quarter before rolling off a 13-3 run to lead 23-18 with 3:05 left in the period. But the Lakers came back to lead 27-25 heading into the second.

Los Angeles took a 47-37 lead with a little less than six minutes left in the half.

Washington scored eight unanswered points to pull within two before the Lakers closed out the first half with an 11-2 run for a 58-47 halftime lead.

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