Sometimes it’s not about how you start, but about how you finish. And tonight, the Lakers started with a loser’s game plan, but eventually figured out how to win in the end.
After losing to the Oklahoma City Thunder last night, a game against the 21-40 New Orleans Hornets was just what the Lakers needed. A team they’ve defeated in nine straight games, surely it would be an easy win, right? The answer would be a definitive NO. Not very many wins this season have been easy for the Lakers, regardless of their opponents’ records. They’ve had to claw their way through a number of ugly games against not only playoff-bound teams, but a slew of subpar squads as well. Tonight would be no exception.
The Lakers fell behind by as much as 25 points, appearing completely incapable of playing well for the length of even one possession. The score was tied after the first quarter, and then the Hornets poured it on in the second, scoring 71 points in the first half, just as OKC did last night. But Kobe Bryant refused to let this game get away from them, putting on a show in the second half and, with Dwight Howard anchoring the defense, erased a double digit lead to take the game at the buzzer, 108-102
Kobe Bryant – Vino-that’s Bryant’s newest moniker. He’s like fine wine, getting better with age, and tonight he continued to support his newest title. There is no slowing this man down, physically or mentally. He doesn’t know the meaning of surrender or despair. If there is time on the clock, he will do whatever it takes to try to win. Down 19 points after the first half, Bryant played the entire second half, scoring 25 of his 42 points on 9-11 from the field and handed out 11 of his 12 assists. He also grabbed seven rebounds and blocked a shot. With 25.5 seconds left in the game, and the Lakers up by just two points, Bryant ran from halfcourt as he received the inbounds pass from Steve Blake to score on a wide open dunk. The Hornets didn’t appear to know what had just transpired, standing in shock as Bryant ran to the Laker bench in celebration.
Dwight Howard – With 2:45 minutes left in the game, and the Lakers just two points behind New Orleans, Howard picked up his fifth foul. Did that fifth foul take him out of the game? Actually, the contrary. Howard continued to rebound, cover the paint and his biggest play was a block on Robin Lopez’s attempt with just over 30 seconds left in the game. Howard finished with 20 points on 9-16 from the field, 15 rebounds, three steals and four blocks.
Jodie Meeks – There are some players who are just really good at doing one thing, and Meeks is really good at shooting
from afar. He scored just seven points through the first three quarters, and then went a perfect 4-4 from behind the arc in the fourth quarter, contributing in a huge way to the Lakers’ 20-0 run to victory. He finished with 19 points and lead with a +19 for the game.
Ball Movement – Led by Bryant’s 12 assists, the Lakers handed out 26 assists on 38 field goals. In comparison, last night against OKC, they handed out just 11 dimes for the entire game. The ball movement was stagnant at best, leading to turnover after turnover. Tonight, the Lakers’ 26 dimes helped keep their mistakes in check, committing just 11 turnovers for the game.
Fourth Quarter – Not only did the Lakers outscore the Hornets 33-9 in the fourth quarter. They went on a 20-0 run in the final 6:47 minutes of the game, shooting 63.2% from the field and committing just one turnover. They held the home team to 17.4% shooting and forced them into six turnovers of their own, which led to 12 points.
Slow Start – “Slow” is an understatement. The score was tied after the first quarter, but in the second quarter, the Lakers completely fell asleep. New Orleans practically outscored them but twice as much, 39-20, while shooting almost 60%. The Lakers went 6-23 from the field for a 26% FG%. Nothing was going their way, but you get out what you put in, and they didn’t put in very much.
Steve Nash – Just six points on 2-7 from the field for the starting point guard, and while Blake didn’t score at all, he did manage to hand out seven assists. Nash handed out just one in his 35 minutes of playing time.
Antawn Jamison and Earl Clark – The Lakers’ sparks the last few weeks, even Jamison and Clark can have off nights. Jamison went just 3-6 from the field for his six points and Clark was 0-4 from the field, scoring only from the free throw line.
By any means necessary – that’s Kobe Bryant’s motto. With the Lakers still sitting in the ninth spot in the West, and Utah and Houston both losing tonight, they couldn’t afford to lose any more games, especially games they SHOULD win. A 25-point deficit isn’t insurmountable if you have the time and the will to get over it, and the Lakers certainly did tonight. They could have mailed it in when the deficit hit its peak, but Bryant just doesn’t lead that way and his team is better for it.