Game Report: Lakers defeat Bobcats 101 – 100
The Bobcats, a team which entered the game having lost 11 games in a row, had the ball with 21 seconds left, and only down by one. They managed three shots on their final possession but could not score, and the Lakers earned perhaps their ugliest win of the season.
But, yes, we’ll gladly take it.
After falling down by seven early, the Lakers built themselves an 11-point lead midway through the second quarter, before absolutely falling apart. By the middle of the third quarter they were down by 18 points – a 29 point swing in roughly 12 minutes!
There were boos at Staples Center, and deservedly so. I joined the chorus from my basement.
And yet the Lakers fought back valiantly, starting with great defense, notably from Darius Morris, whose substitution for Chris Duhon managed to slow down the red-hot Kemba Walker, and helped spark the turnaround.
The Lakers finally caught and passed the Bobcats with a 17-0 run in the fourth quarter, which was part of a larger 30-4 run, only to see the Bobcats tie it back up at 95 with just over three minutes remaining.
After that the game see-sawed, with Kobe hitting a couple of clutch shots, and Dwight being correctly called on an obvious goaltend before redeeming himself with a huge swat in the final sequence, allowing the Lakers to extend their meagre win streak to three games.
An interesting note from tonight’s box score was that all five starters (including Devin Ebanks, who played only five minutes) finished with a negative plus-minus, whereas all three reserves finished with a huge positive plus-minus, despite shooting poorly. Metta World Peace (who came off the bench tonight), Jodie Meeks, and Morris shot just 14 of 37 (38%) combined, but finished with an average plus-minus of +21 each. That speaks to the excellent defense that all three played tonight.
In fact, Coach D’Antoni was so impressed with Meeks’ defense that after the game he hinted at a future starting line-up of Steve Nash, Jodie Meeks, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Dwight Howard.
To be honest, I wouldn’t mind seeing D’Antoni give that starting line-up a test-drive, but any line-up that involves both his big men will be a work-in-progress, given how D’Antoni handled Gasol (10 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 blocks in 29 minutes) and Howard (16 points, 18 rebounds, 1 assist, 4 blocks in 32 minutes) tonight. Although both started, they played less and less with each other as the game wore on, until in the second half they were simply substituting for the other, and both playing center.
Hey – if the Lakers can afford to pay $19 million for a back-up center, then that’s great, but surely D’Antoni can find a way to make the two of them work together.
Although it was an ugly win, it was a very important win. If we assume the Lakers will need 50 wins to earn a spot in the play-offs (they may need fewer), then going into tonight they needed to finish the season with a record of 39-18 (0.684). That doesn’t leave much room for error, and certainly not against a team like the Bobcats, who have now lost 12 consecutive games.
Steve Nash’s streak of consecutive missed games reached 24 tonight, but there is some speculation that the streak may be soon coming to an end. He is expected to practice with the team on Thursday and Friday, and if he responds well then he may play on Saturday – and if not on Saturday, then likely on the following Tuesday, which is Christmas Day.
Lakers’ Player of the Game
There was no clear stand-out among the Lakers tonight, but I will give the nod to Kobe Bryant, who became the first player in league history at least 34 years of age to score at least 30 points in seven consecutive games. Kobe scored 30 points on 46% shooting, led the team with seven assists (with only two turnovers), and added six rebounds, a steal, and a memorable block.
There was a key play in the 4th quarter comeback where the Lakers inbounded the ball with 2.8 seconds remaining on the shot clock. Kobe took the pass, squared to the basket and made a 3-pointer, and at no point during this sequence did his heels touch the floor. That was important, as his heels would have been out of bounds. It was a subtle but amazing moment in the game.
Kobe was also pretty clutch at the end, too, hitting some key baskets, although an ill-advised shot on the Lakers’ final possession left the Bobcats with a great chance to win.
Tonight’s Top Two Tweets in my Twitter Feed
“So admirable for the gutty little Lakers to scrap against the mighty Bobcats.” – @MedinaLakersNBA, 3rd-quarter tweet
“Pau Gasol comes back in. Dwight Howard goes out. Yep, definitely a theme brewing here.” – @ramonashelburne, 4th-quarter tweet
Saturday, December 22 at the Golden State Warriors, 7:30 p.m. PST.