The Lakers were down by 20 points midway through the third quarter, and it’s possible they had not looked worse all season.
However, in a game they could not afford to lose, they seemed to flip a switch and ended the game on a 49-22 run. The comeback featured both good ball movement and energy on defense – both of which had been sorely lacking until then.
To the Lakers’ credit, they did not display an overabundance of joy in completing their huge and perhaps season-saving comeback. After all, they knew these were only the Charlotte Bobcats. But more importantly, they seemed to realize they were the Los Angeles Lakers.
The comeback, it is fair to say, was led by Kobe Bryant. Kobe was scoreless in the first half, but came alive in the second half.
It’s important to note that Kobe didn’t go into “chucking mode” and hoist a number of low percentage shots. He was determined, yes, but he was also relaxed and controlled. He certainly exploited mismatches when he had them, but he also moved the ball to his teammates when the double-teams came at him.
Kobe ended the night with 20 points (6-15 FG, 8-8 FT), eight assists, and seven rebounds.
Both Earl Clark and Dwight Howard rebounded from poor games against the Celtics with double-doubles tonight. Clark scored 17 points (7-14 FG, 2-3 FT) and 10 rebounds, while Howard had 12 points (4-7 FG, 4-6 FT) and 11 rebounds. Clark chipped in two steals and a block, while Howard added three blocks and a steal.
Steve Nash played a terrible first quarter, but by the time the night was done he had turned in a solid effort. He scored 17 points (6-12 FG, 3-3 FT) and had seven assists (against four turnovers).
Once again, the bench – Antawn Jamison, Jodie Meeks, and Steve Blake – played very well for the Lakers. They finished with plus-minuses of +9, +11, and +11 respectively, while the only starter to finish with a plus was Earl Clark – who finished with a team-high +14.
The Lakers next game is against the Heat in Miami on Sunday afternoon. Unlike the game tonight, it will not be a must-win for the Lakers, but it will be an opportunity for a statement game.
If the Lakers could somehow pull out a win against the defending champions on the final game of a long road-trip, they would return home from a 5-2 road trip feeling like a contender.
Lakers’ Player of the Game
On a night when the Lakers had a balanced attack, I am going to award Player of the Game honors to someone who has not won the award previously – Jodie Meeks.
Playing 30 full minutes off the bench, Meeks scored 14 points on 5 of 7 shooting, including a perfect 4 of 4 from downtown. He added four rebounds, two assists, and had zero turnovers.
Just as importantly, Meeks finished the game with a plus-minus of +11 – his effort was strong on both ends of the floor.
Tonight’s Top Two Tweets in my Twitter Feed
“Huge reason for the comeback? They turned it over 11 times in the first half and just twice in the second half. Big, big difference.” – @LakersNation, post-game tweet
“Nash: ‘That would have been pretty devastating to lose this game.’” – @LakersReporter, post-game tweet
Sunday, February 10 at the Miami Heat, 12:30 p.m. PST