The Los Angeles Lakers are playing the waiting for Kobe game — trying to stay respectable without one of the NBA’s all-time greats.
Los Angeles had its three-game winning streak broken, 116-111 by the Washington Wizards on Tuesday night, while Bryant, who signed a two-year contract extension on Monday, watched on television from the locker room.
The Lakers’ star pledged his loyalty to the only team he’s ever played for in his first public comments about the extension, saying before the game that Los Angeles’ willingness to pay him a reported $48.5 million for the next two seasons makes him want to “run through a wall” for the team.
He won’t play in Brooklyn on Wednesday or at Detroit on Friday as he concludes his rehab from surgery on his ruptured Achilles tendon.
His teammates nearly pulled out another win against a team with two hot players, John Wall, who had 31 points and Nene, who scored a career-high 30 on 13-for-22 shooting from the field.
“We have to learn how to win with this team. It’s just put together and we don’t have one thing that we go to all the time, but we’ll get it straight,” Los Angeles coach Mike D’Antoni said. “They’re playing hard, and they’re together and we should have won tonight.”
The Lakers are 7-8 but just 1-5 on the road.
Wall, who was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week on Monday, has scored more than 30 points in three straight games for the first time in his career. The point guard scored 11 points in the final 4:40 to help seal the win.
Washington coach Randy Wittman isn’t surprised or especially pleased by Wall’s success in his fourth year.
“No, because he’s going to play better (Wednesday),” Wittman said.
Washington plays at Milwaukee on Wednesday.
Wall and Nene became the first pair of Wizards to score 30 or more since Dec. 16, 2009, when Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison combined to score 63 points at Sacramento.
Nene had never scored more than 28 points in his 12-year NBA career.
“I feel like wine. You get old. You get better,” the 31-year-old Brazilian said.
It didn’t necessarily confound Wittman that Nene had never hit 30.
“He’s not a guy who looks to score every time he touches the ball. There are some players in this league that do that,” Wittman said.
“I could see where he hasn’t, but I’m glad he did it tonight.”
Martell Webster added 20 points with four 3-pointers.
Jordan Farmar led the Lakers with 22 and Pau Gasol had 17.
The Wizards took a 75-73 lead on Nene’s three-point play with 2:37 left in the third quarter and led 82-77 after three.
Webster’s consecutive 3-pointers in the fourth quarter gave Washington an 88-80 lead with 10:22 to play. Webster added another 3-pointer to give the Wizards their largest lead — 96-87 with 7:38 to play.
Thanks to Wall’s hot play, Washington held on. Gasol’s three-point play with 24.5 seconds left cut the lead to 113-111, but Wall hit three final free throws.
Bryant is back practicing, but his return won’t come until at least Dec. 6, when the Lakers play at Sacramento.
“We don’t think about it much at all. We have a job to do now, the guys who are in the lineup. Everybody’s focused on their responsibility and I think we’ve done pretty good so far,” Farmar said.
“We’re still learning and still trying to figure each other out. It’s going to be a work in progress even when he does come back, trying to figure out everybody’s role.”
Washington was without guard Bradley Beal, who will be out for at least two weeks with a stress injury to his right foot. Beal was replaced in the starting lineup by Trevor Ariza, who missed the last five games with a strained right hamstring.
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