The Indiana Pacers will have to try to prevent Kobe Bryant from racking up points against them just one more time.
Bryant announced Sunday afternoon that he’ll retire after the season. A few hours later, Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers played host to the Pacers, with Indiana exiting Staples Center with a 107-103 victory.
Paul George scored a game-high 39 points to lead Indiana, including the team’s final 12 points. Bryant finished with 13 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists, shooting just 4-of-20 from the floor.
Bryant, a 5-time NBA champion and 17-time All-Star, has struggled badly this year, after missing last season due to a torn Achilles’ tendon. He’s shooting a paltry 30.5-percent from the floor, 20.2-percent from 3-point territory.
“It’s tough. … 20 years … legs aren’t what they used to be,” the 37-year-old Bryant told the Los Angeles Times.
The game was never a struggle for Bryant in the past, who won the first of his five titles at the expense of the Pacers in 2000.
Los Angeles defeated Indiana, 4 games to 2, with Bryant averaging a modest 15.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.2 assists a game.
Shaquille O’Neal destroyed Rik Smits and the Pacers in that series, averaging 38 points, 16.7 boards and 2.7 blocks an outing.
In 1,293 NBA games, Bryant is averaging 25.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists. His 32,683 career points ranks third on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, trailing only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387) and Karl Malone (36,928).
The Pacers host the Lakers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Monday, Feb. 8 (7 p.m.).
Indiana plays the Clippers at Staples Center Wednesday night (10:30 p.m., Fox Sports Indiana).
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