I write this report in a state of shock and disbelief.
It’s a numb feeling that reminds me of the time I witnessed a car accident – I wasn’t quite sure what I had just witnessed, but I knew it was huge, and I knew it would have a tremendous effect on the lives of those involved.
Your Los Angeles Lakers, who were down by 25 in the second quarter, and who started the fourth quarter down 18, closed the game on a 20-0 run over the final 6:42 to win by six points.
In the process, they further solidified their growing reputation as closers – both around the league and in their own minds – having now won their last eight games which have been decided by single digits.
As Kobe Bryant calmly said in his post-game interview, he led the charge on offense and Dwight Howard took control on defense.
Kobe finished with 42 points on 67% shooting, and had 12 assists and seven rebounds in 42 minutes.
Dwight scored 20 points on 56% shooting, and had 15 rebounds, four blocks, and three steals in 35 minutes – and this while playing the entire game with foul trouble.
And Jodie Meeks played an amazing game as well, scoring 19 points on 55% shooting in 26 minutes, and finishing with a team-high plus-minus of +19.
There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that this was a must-win game for the Lakers, but from the middle of the second quarter it looked more like a can’t-win game than a must-win game.
But, just as they did in Charlotte on February 8 – in a game that was also considered a must-win – the Lakers mounted an enormous fourth quarter comeback.
Tonight, they outscored the Hornets 33-9 in the fourth quarter. And Lakers’ fans know those 33 points scored are not the story – the real story is allowing just nine points in the fourth quarter, with the season potentially on the line.
This was a game that added to the legend of Kobe Bryant – but Lakers fans hope it’s also an early entry in the legend of Dwight Howard.
In addition to all the drama, there was comedy as well.
With Howard having just stuffed Robin Lopez to protect a two-point lead – his biggest play of the season – the Lakers called a time-out with 25 seconds remaining. They were getting set to inbound the ball but they had six players on the floor – Dwight hadn’t realized that Coach Mike D’Antoni had pulled him, needing free throw shooters in the game.
D’Antoni actually came out onto the floor to retrieve Howard, and walked off with his hand on Howard’s back – if they weren’t sharing a laugh at that moment, then I hope they have shared one since.
The funniest moment, though, came on the subsequent inbounding of the ball.
In such a situation, the team with possession almost always takes advantage of the time-out to advance the ball and inbound it from the opponent’s half of the floor – it only makes sense to get the ball as close as possible to the opponent’s hoop, and as far as possible from your own.
But the Lakers, strangely, did not advance the ball. They inbounded from the side in their own half of the floor, and what’s more, no one ran down court to receive the inbounds pass. The four Lakers on the floor all gathered in stack formation at the top of the key in their own end.
This must have confused the Hornets greatly, because all five of the Hornets started jostling with the Lakers, and were guarding them by standing between the Lakers players and the Lakers basket. No Hornet was guarding the Hornets basket – at all.
Then, as there was absolutely no one between him and the Hornets basket, Kobe sprang from the pack and started running down court – a move that seemed to startle the Hornets.
Is it possible that the Hornets forgot which basket was which, as Stu Lantz suggested on the broadcast?
Steve Blake inbounded the ball to Kobe in full stride, and Kobe dribbled down court all by himself and finished with a monster jam.
Making tonight’s victory even more sweet for Lakers fans was the fact that earlier in the night the Cavaliers finished their game with a 12-1 run to beat the Jazz by three points, and then the Rockets lost to the Mavericks by four points, allowing the Lakers to gain a full game on both teams.
Of course, a loss tonight would not have mathematically eliminated the Lakers, and you could even argue that with the Jazz and Rockets losing, the damage of the Lakers losing tonight would have been minimal.
But a loss would have sent a clear signal throughout the league – and throughout the Lakers locker room – that this team was not a serious contender.
A win tonight over the Hornets was not supposed to suggest that the Lakers were actually contenders – it was just supposed to suggest that they were capable of taking care of business.
But the way in which they won this game – a ferocious fourth quarter comeback anchored by tremendous defensive intensity – suggests the Lakers are capable of great things this year.
Lakers’ Player of the Game
Tonight there are co-winners of Player of the Game Award: Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard. With the Lakers having all but lost a game they simply could not afford to lose, these two players willed their team to victory.
On offense, Kobe Bryant led the charge with 42 points (14-21 FG, 3-7 3PT, 11-14 FT) and 12 assists, with Dwight contributing 20 points (9-16 FG, 2-4 FT).
On defense, Dwight Howard anchored the team by grabbing 15 rebounds, swatting four New Orleans shots, and nabbing three steals, and on the biggest defensive possession of the game he absolutely stuffed Robin Lopez. Kobe chipped in on defense with seven rebounds and a block.
And it needs to be said that both Bryant and Howard were hurt in the Oklahoma City game yesterday, and both came back to finish that game, and both played through pain tonight. It showed tremendous leadership.
Top Four Tweets in My Twitter Feed
“Kobe finishing on offense. Dwight finishing on defense. How things should be.” – @AJRoss94, late-game tweet
“And Dwight deserves so much credit for these screens. He’s DESTROYING Gordon every single time.” – @DrewGarrisonSBN, late-game tweet
“YEAR. OF. THE. SNAKE” – @ForumBlueGold, late-game tweet
“You almost can’t write this stuff any better.” – @SteveNashNation, late-game tweet
Friday, March 8 vs. the Toronto Raptors, 7:30 p.m. PST
TiqIQ’s job is finding the best deals and sellers out there for you, and for this game you may want to have a look at Barry’s Lakers tickets.