The Fifth Quarter: Kobe Bryant's farewell tour begins with flicker, then fades away

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Late in the game with his team down four points, Kobe Bryant answered the call and hit a fadeaway 3-point basket to cut his team’s deficit to one.  

Vintage Kobe.

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Then he stood, trying not to smile, as the crowd erupted. Finally, he gave in, and showed some teeth.

When the Lakers inbounded the ball, down by three after a pair of Paul George free throws, everyone knew where the ball was going.

Catching the ball from Jordan Clarkson, Bryant launched another 3-pointer from almost the same spot as the one moments before. This one missed, badly — almost identical to the ones he threw up against the Jazz as an 18-year-old rookie in 1997.

When it was over, Pacers players came up in droves to embrace Bryant. The fans cheered wildly. It was almost like old times. Except it wasn't. 

Other than those final seconds, it was another loss for the Lakers (2-14) and anoth

er night in which Bryant played like a shell of himself, going 4 for 20 from the field.

“I continue to work really hard, even though I played like s—," Bryant said smugly in a long, emotional post-game press conference. He exchanged laughs with reporters, reflecting nostalgically on a career that included 17 All-Star selections and five championships.

A miserable start to his final season notwithstanding, those earlier moments of brilliance will be treasured, not only by Lakers fans, but by the basketball world at large as one of the all-time greats embarks on the last season of an unforgettable career. 

Stud of the night

Paul George has been stellar all season, and Sunday night was no different. George scored 39 points, hitting 5 of 10 3-point attempts and 14 of 17 free throws as the Pacers held off the Lakers, 107-103. 

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Dud of the night 

The only bright side of Reggie Jackson's horrible shooting performance was that it gave Andre Drummond more opportunities for a rebound (he had 18). Jackson hit just 4 of 20 shots and turned the ball over three times in the Pistons' 87-83 loss to the Nets.

Tweet of the night 

Kristaps Porzingis has spent most of his rookie season posterizing other players. The 20-year-old Latvian rookie got a taste of his own medicine Sunday when Dwight Howard dished this one out in Madison Square Garden. 

Looking ahead 

Spurs (14-3) at Bulls (9-5), 8 p.m. ET: Another night, another Eastern Conference contender for the Spurs to measure up against.