Heading into the matchup with the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton was hopeful, if not confident, his young team would handle the spotlight well. Beyond playing the defending NBA champions, the night was about Kobe Bryant and the retirement of his No. 8 and No. 24 jerseys.
With Bryant and his family sitting at center court, the Lakers again competed well against the Warriors. They were without four players, including Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Shaun Livingston.
Curry’s absence wasn’t much of a surprise, as he’s been sidelined by a sprained ankle for two weeks. During that time, Kevin Durant has further elevated his game to fill the void left by Curry.
But Durant struggled from the floor against the Lakers. He missed his first six shots before connecting on a 3-pointer late in the first quarter. He finished the night 10-for-29 from the field.
Never one to shy away from continuing to shoot, Durant joked that particularly held true on the night Bryant was being honored, per Mark Medina of The Mercury News:
“That was a Kobe night. I had to get them up for Kobe,” Durant said, smiling. “I feel like I got good shots all night. I felt like some I rushed. I was trying to get it back all at once. I just slowed down there in the fourth quarter and in overtime. Coach called some great plays and I was able to hit a few shots.”
For all his struggles throughout the night, the reigning Finals MVP caught fire in overtime. Durant scored 12 of the Warriors’ 14 points during the five-minute period and made all four shot attempts.
Included in that was drilling a game-winning jumper over Lonzo Ball with 6.4 seconds remaining. Durant scored a game-high 36 points, pulled down 11 rebounds, collected eight assists and added three blocks.
The 116-114 victory extended the Warriors’ season-best winning streak, which began against the Lakers in November, to nine games. Golden State will put it on the line Wednesday night before facing the Lakers at home on Friday.
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