Resurgent Kobe Bryant leads Lakers past Pelicans, 99-96

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) Kobe Bryant scored 27 points, hitting three pivotal 3-pointers in the last six-plus minutes, and the Los Angeles Lakers won their second straight, 99-96 over the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday night.

Bryant, who scored a season-high 38 points at Minnesota two nights earlier, held his follow-through as his final 3 went through with a minute left to put the Lakers up 98-92, then wagged his index finger as if to say, “Don’t doubt me,” as he jogged back up court with a good portion of the crowd cheering wildly.

Bryant, who also grabbed 12 rebounds, missed a free throw with 6 seconds left that allowed the Pelicans a chance to tie the game with a 3, but Jrue Holiday‘s shot missed the rim as time expired.

Anthony Davis had 39 points and 11 rebounds for the Pelicans, but his missed breakaway dunk in the fourth quarter seemed to define the night for New Orleans, which lost its third straight.

The Pelicans missed a couple of dunks among a number of misses from short range. They also missed 12 of 26 free throws.

There were smatterings of purple and gold throughout the stands – only a small minority of it LSU gear. Lakers fans who wanted to honor Bryant in his final season showed up and made themselves heard with cheers that filled the arena each time Bryant checked into the game and when he hit shots. At one point in the first half, an “M-V-P!” chant broke out with Bryant on the foul line.

The cheers that erupted after his late baskets seemed somewhat bizarre, given that they spoiled the home team’s frantic attempt to come back from a 12-point, fourth-quarter deficit.

Jordan Clarkson scored 18 points for the Lakers, who’d lost 10 straight before beating the Timberwolves and Pelicans this week. D'Angelo Russell added 13 points and Julius Randle 11.

Holiday scored 19 for New Orleans, but missed five of six 3s he attempts as New Orleans went 4-of-20 from deep. Ryan Anderson and Bryce Dejean-Jones each scored 17.

New Orleans missed eight of its first nine shots and trailed 13-2 just four minutes into the game.

Bryant started quickly, making four of his first five shots and scored 11 of his points in the opening quarter.

The Lakers led by 12 when Randle’s jumper made it 26-14, but New Orleans stormed into the lead, however briefly, by closing the quarter on a 14-0 run that included five points by Dejean-Jones.

Los Angeles seized control right back in the second quarter, going back up by 12 with a 14-2 run fueled largely by Clarkson’s seven points on a jumper, 3 and layup.

Clarkson, who scored 16 of his points in the first half, later added another 3 to give the Lakers their largest lead at 55-42.

Los Angeles led 59-48 at halftime and still led by 10 after a disjointed third quarter characterized by fits and starts by both clubs.

TIP-INS

Lakers: Clarkson has scored at least 10 points in 20 straight games, a career-best streak. … The Lakers won the only other meeting earlier this season in Los Angeles. A third and final meeting is scheduled in New Orleans on April 8. … Former LSU standout Brandon Bass, a south Louisiana native, estimated that he’d fulfilled close to 30 ticket requests for friends and family.

Pelicans: G Tyreke Evans missed his fifth straight game with right knee soreness. Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said he and trainers believe it’s better to give Evans continuous rest until he can return at lost to full health rather than have him playing through pain and possibly worsening his condition. … New Orleans, which had recently won seven of nine, has lost four of six, including two straight at home.

UP NEXT

Lakers: Visit San Antonio on Saturday night.

Pelicans: Visit Cleveland on Saturday night.

Steven Adams inks two-year, $25.2 million extension with Grizzlies

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Steven Adams signed a two-year, $25.2 million contract extension with Memphis, which will keep him tied to the team through the 2024-25 season. ESPN’s Adrian Wojanrowski broke the news on Saturday.

Adams has been crucial to the Grizzlies’ recent success. He’s coming off his first season with the team, where he averaged career-highs in rebounds (10.0) and assists (3.4). He also helped them lock up the No. 2 spot in the Western Conference and make it to the Conference Semifinals, where they lost to the eventual-champion Warriors 4-2. Despite the improved numbers, a lot of his value is from intangibles that don’t show up in the box score.

Adams spent the first seven years of his career with the Thunder before being traded to New Orleans in the four-team deal that sent Jrue Holiday to Milwaukee. Adams was moved again to Memphis in a package for Jonas Valanciunas.

Adams has found a new home with a young Grizzlies team that is looking to win a championship. The team is built around Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Desmond Bane, but Jackson Jr. is expected to miss time after being diagnosed with a stress fracture in his left foot. Memphis will rely on Adams more than ever to begin the season.

Watch Curry, Klay in 3-point shooting contest in Japan. Yeah, they’re good at this.

NBA Japan Games Saturday Night
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The NBA went to Japan to promote the brand, play a few games in a huge market — Japan specifically but Asia as a whole — and put on a show.

Is there a better show than Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson draining 3s? Here they are in a 3-point contest during a basketball exhibition (there were some pro dunkers) in Tokyo on Saturday.

Stephen Curry, was there any other possible outcome?

It’s preseason and they are the defending champs — they should be having fun, playing with some joy.

Thompson took part in the shooting contest but is not playing in either of the exhibition games in Japan as the Warriors ease him back into play this season. It’s a marathon of a season and the Warriors need the best version of Klay starting in April, not October.

Report: Pelicans, Nance agree to two-year, $21.6 million extension

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Larry Nance has been a stabilizing influence in New Orleans since coming over mid-season as part of the trade for CJ McCollum. Nance is a versatile player who can play the four or the five, knocks down his threes, is very strong on the glass, can be a disruptive defender in passing lanes, and fits in — and he has the veteran attitude of work this team needs.

So the Pelicans have reached an extension to keep the 29-year-old around for two years past this coming season, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

This is a signing that should make Pelicans fans happy. Importantly, it makes CJ McCollum happy — they are tight and this is something McCollum wanted to see. The money on this deal seems fair, about the league average for a solid rotation player.

Nance is the kind of veteran this team needs considering its young core of Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram (just turned 25), Herb Jones, and guys like Trey Murphy III, Jose Alvarado, and others. Nance compared it to the young Lakers teams he was on, but noted that team lacked the same level of veteran leadership this Pelicans team has.

We may see more Nance at the five lineups — small ball with Zion at the four — to close games this season in New Orleans, that could be their best lineup because Nance can defend but also spaces the floor for Zion on offense. Coach Willie Green has a lot of different players and matchups to experiment with.

And now he has the stability of Nance for a few more years.

Durant tired of talking Nets dramatic offseason: ‘I didn’t miss any games’

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No team had an offseason quite like the Brooklyn Nets. First, they would not give a long-term extension to Kyrie Irving, which sent the star guard looking for a new team (but there were no offers that worked for everyone, so he opted in with Brooklyn). Then Kevin Durant asked for a trade, and to gain a little leverage reportedly threw down an ultimatum of him or the coach and GM. No trade could be found — how much the Nets wanted one is up for debate — so he is back in Brooklyn. And all that is not even getting into the return of Ben Simmons, a trade for Royce O’Neal, or anything else.

The Nets drama and how they move past it has been the talk of training camp. The only talk at training camp, it feels like.

When asked Friday if there were any inaccuracies in the reporting of the Nets summer he would like to clear up, Durant sounded weary of rehashing the summer.

The only thing that will start to move the conversation in a new direction is the Nets playing and winning games (they open the preseason Monday against the 76ers). And even those wins will have the shadow of the offseason cast over them. Durant and Irving made this bed.

Part of the fascination is the Nets remain the team hardest to predict in the league. They arguably have the most talented roster in the league and, if everything comes together just right, they can contend for a title. It’s also possible the wheels fall off early and by Christmas the Nets are looking to trade Durant again. Both things feel possible (even if reality most likely lands somewhere in the middle).

That uncertainty about the Nets’ future is the drama that will keep eyeballs on them — which also means more questions about this past offseason. Durant can choose not to answer them, but the questions aren’t going away.