November 20, 2012
Mike D’Antoni made his coaching debut for the Lakers tonight, and his team got off to a roaring start, building a 10-0 early lead.
But the Lakers did not run away with it, and were down by six with less than six minutes to go in the game. With 4:39 remaining, the Lakers hit their first field goal of the quarter (!) – a three-pointer from Metta World Peace, and that seemed to provide them with a lift.
The game was tied 86-86 with less than three minutes to go. The Lakers defense stood tall and strong to close the game, and Kobe Bryant scored the Lakers’ final eight points to lead them to victory.
Dwight Howard looked great tonight, except when he found himself on the free throw line. The charity stripe was not feeling very charitable toward Dwight tonight, where he shot only 7-19 (37%). That clearly would have been the story of the game had the Lakers lost, and would have overshadowed his otherwise very impressive 23 point, 15 rebound performance.
The highlight of the game for me occurred with five seconds remaining, when Kobe went to the line to shoot two, with the Lakers up 91-90. These were crucial shots, and yet Kobe spent the entire time trash talking with Gerald Wallace. Kobe actually had his feet on the line, the ball positioned in his hands ready to shoot, and he was still yammering with Wallace. Then Kobe just shook his head, looked at the hoop, bent his knees, and let go a couple of daggers that made it 93-90. Priceless.
It should be noted that whereas the first half was more of a track meet, which the Nets won 57-56, the second half was a defensive struggle, which the Lakers won 39-33. Despite Howard’s struggles at the free throw line and his foul trouble, D’Antoni left Dwight out there until the very end, perhaps knowing that this game was going to be won by altering shots and grabbing rebounds, and not lost by missing free throws.
Finally, it should be noted that Steve Nash missed his ninth full game with his leg injury. Before the game, Coach D’Antoni confirmed that Nash would miss, at minimum, tonight’s game and three more. Sigh.
Lakers Player of the Game
Although Dwight, Metta and (especially) Pau Gasol played great tonight, the Player of the Game has to be Bryant, given how he scored the Lakers final eight points, hitting all six of his free throws in the final 20 seconds to ice the win. Kobe’s 25 points, 5 assists, and 4 rebounds may not have been that impressive by his standards, but he was also +20 tonight in a game the Lakers won by only five.
In fact, Kobe, playing on a 6-5 team, is not just the league leader in scoring, but he’s the league leader in plus-minus as well.
Tonight’s Top Two Tweets in my Twitter Feed
“Kobe said he made 1-of-2 to try and ‘hustle’ Wallace. He tried to make Wallace bet a few stacks that he’d made both free throws.” – LakerHolicz (@Lakerholicz), post-game tweet
“Darius Morris is really trying, but … this is a game that makes you think about how good the Lakers will look with @SteveNash.” – Kevin Ding (@KevinDing), mid-game tweet
Wednesday, November 21 at the Sacramento Kings, 7:00 p.m. PST