The Philadelphia 76ers’ historic and agonizing losing streak finally ended Tuesday as Kobe Bryant suffered more defeat with the Los Angeles Lakers in his first road match since announcing his plans to retire.
One more defeat for the Sixers on Tuesday — 0-18 heading into the game — would have given them sole possession of the record for the worst start to a season in NBA history.
They had already set a record for the longest losing streak in the history of the NBA, with 28 defeats stretching over last season and the current campaign.
But a 23-point haul from forward Robert Covington laid the foundation for a deserved 103-91 Sixers victory as Bryant and the Lakers tumbled to 2-15, the worst record in the Western Conference.
Jerami Grant and Nerlens Noel added 14 points apiece while rookie Jahlil Okafor was one of three Philadelphia players to finish with 12 points.
“I’m pleased for the city,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said. “We don’t want the streak continuing. …. Obviously, this is a relief on many levels.”
Bryant meanwhile was the top scorer for the Lakers, producing 20 points, two assists and five rebounds.
Bryant’s haul also featured four three-pointers. But the 37-year-old’s effort was in vain, and his final numbers were just 7-for-26 from the floor.
“God knows I can’t sustain that level of energy for 48 minutes like I used to,” Bryant said.
On Sunday, Bryant triggered an outpouring of tributes after confirming that his glittering 20-year career in the NBA would end at the end of this season.
– Kobe emotional –
But it promises to be a long goodbye for the veteran superstar in every sense, with the Lakers inexperienced roster a pale imitation of the five NBA championship-winning teams Bryant played on during the previous decade.
Yet none of that mattered in Philadelphia. The home fans gave him a standing ovation as he took to the court for the warm-up and again when his name was introduced.
Bryant’s coach from school basketball was also on hand to present a framed jersey from his prep years.
“I’m not the most emotional person,” Bryant said. “I try not to be. But that got to me.”
Elsewhere Tuesday, the Washington Wizards stunned LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers with a 97-85 upset in Ohio.
John Wall led the way with 35 points, 10 assists and four rebounds as the Wizards improved to 7-8, easing pressure on beleaguered coach Randy Wittman.
It was the Cavs’ first home defeat of the season following a 9-0 start to the campaign at the Quicken Loans Arena.
James scored 24 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for Cleveland but committed nine turnovers, part of an overall tally of 19, just short of their season-high 21 set in a double-overtime loss.
“They beat us from beginning to end,” James said. “They beat us in every facet of the game, right from the beginning. Their pace, their speed, their ability to get the ball up the floor really caused us problems tonight.”
Wittman’s position had been called into question after a dismal start to the season for the Wizards, who reached the second round of the playoffs last year.
The hero for Wittman was Wall, who became the first Wizards player to bag a 30-point game this season.
At one point the Wizards surged 22 points clear in the third quarter before Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova scored 10 points in the third to reduce the deficit. – Agence France-Presse