"Not at all," Bryant said after the Lakers rallied for a
103-94 victory over the Wizards on Tuesday night after trailing by
as many as 20 points in the second half. "We're fighting, we're
"People see us having these gold uniforms on and think we're
soft. I looked at that as a chance to show the world what we could
do. I'm going to fight until the final buzzer goes off, for 48 minutes."
Bryant scored 18 of his 23 points in the second half, and also had 11 rebounds and a career-high 15 assists for his third NBA triple-double.
His effort, along with the Lakers' huge second half, made Phil Jackson the winner in his first game coaching against Jordan.
"I did not know what happened in the first half, we kind of stumbled around," Jackson said. "I guess desperation is the answer to our playing basketball tonight."
The Lakers took command by outscoring the Wizards 43-11 to turn
a 63-43 deficit with 7:50 left in the third quarter into an 86-74
lead with 8:03 remaining in the fourth.
The Wizards, who had their five-game winning streak snapped,
didn't threaten after that.
"This is definitely a lesson for us, we're not quite in their league yet," said Jordan, who led the Wizards with 22 points, five rebounds and six assists. "We folded under their pressure -- and that's what championship teams do to you.
"We just lost our composure, and I'm a part of that. Defensively, Phil took options out of our game which open up things for me. If anyone knows my game, Phil knows my game."
After leaving the interview room, Jordan went directly to Jackson's office.
Bryant shot 9-of-20 and, just as he promised, got his teammates involved -- especially in the third period. And when it came time to score, he scored.
With a little over a minute to play and the Lakers leading
97-89, Bryant hit from outside over Jordan, drawing one of the
loudest cheers of the night from the Staples Center crowd of
18,997. Jordan left the game for good a few seconds later.
Jackson coached the Jordan-led Chicago Bulls to six championships in an eight-year span before both left that team in 1998. Jackson took a year off before becoming coach of the Lakers, and Jordan ended his retirement this season.
Shaquille O'Neal, sidelined due to pain in his arthritic big
toe, watched from the bench. The Lakers are 1-1 since he went on
the injured list for the second time this season.
The loss also snapped Washington's 13-game winning streak in games played by Richard Hamilton, who scored 12 of his 17 points in the first quarter.
The Wizards led 48-35 at halftime, and outscored the Lakers 15-8
to start the third quarter for their 20-point lead.
Suddenly, the Lakers got it together at both ends of the court,
outscoring the Wizards 34-11 to finish the period for a 77-74 lead.
Their 42 points in the quarter were a season-high.
Bryant played a major role. He stole the ball from Jordan to set
up a three-point play with one minute left in the quarter, and fed
Brian Shaw for a 3-pointer with 0.2 seconds left in the period to
give the Lakers their first lead since the opening five minutes.
The Lakers then scored the first nine points of the fourth quarter to put the Wizards away.
Jordan and Bryant hugged at midcourt before the game. Then, it
was all business.
Guarded by Rick Fox, Jordan missed his first two shots before dunking on a fast break -- a rarity for him these days.
Bryant was tracking Hamilton, but not very successfully.
Hamilton shot 6-of-8 for 12 points to help the Wizards to a 25-16
The Lakers shot only 7-of-24 in the opening period and 2-of-10 to start the second quarter, but trailed by only eight points because the Wizards weren't doing much better.
Shaw and Robert Horry made 3-pointers to cut Washington's lead
to four before a twisting layup by Jordan triggered a 10-0 run,
putting the Wizards on top 46-32.
The Lakers' 35 first-half points tied a season-low.
O'Neal plans to return next Tuesday night against the Boston Celtics. "No, it's not getting better," he said of his sore toe. "I'm coming back, I'll shoot it up." ... The Lakers are 6-4 without O'Neal this season. ... Wizards reserve Tyronn Lue played his first game in Los Angeles since helping the Lakers win the NBA Finals last June. "The strangest thing was coming into the visitor's locker room," said Lue, who had five points in 16 minutes. "It's great to see the fellas." Lue received his championship ring before the game. ... The Wizards activated Christian Laettner and placed rookie Kwame Brown, the first overall selection in last June's draft, on the injured list with a pulled
hamstring and strained calf. ... The Lakers have won nine straight
and 26 of the last 28 between the teams in Los Angeles.