Phil Jackson always said that things could “turn on a trifle.” A streak of good fortune could turn tragic with a one careless decision. A long period of confusion and frustration could turn favorable with a single, serendipitous opportunity for change. For the Lakers, down by 20 points in the third quarter against the still-lowly and forever struggling Charlotte Bobcats, a bad hangover from one of their worst losses of the season in Boston appeared ready for an extended stay. But in the last five minutes before the final quarter, the visiting team suddenly found their second wind.
Earl Clark’s three-point play, a three-pointer from Jodie Meeks, another three from Steve Nash, a layup from Kobe Bryant, converted free throws – suddenly the 51-71 deficit turned into just a nine-point Bobcats lead and the Lakers turned into a team who was ready to finish off the night with a 100-93 victory.
All-In – The Lakers found some normalcy again after their blowout loss last night against the Celtics. The balance was back (six players in double figures, every player with at least a pair of rebounds, and 6-8 handed out at least one assist). Kobe Bryant, scoreless in the first half after two field goal attempts, went off for 20 points on 6-13 from the field in the second half, handed out eight assists to lead the team and even blocked his old teammate, Ramon Sessions’ attempt to score. His last three assists to end the third quarter went to Meeks and Nash’s threes, as well as Clark’s jumper which led to a three-point play and got the Lakers to within eight points of the lead. Nash, starting to score more in the last few games, put in 17 of his own and handed out seven assists. Clark and Dwight Howard each had a double-double, combining for 29 points, 21 rebounds and four blocks. Their defense in the end is worth mentioning, with Howard keeping watch in the paint and Clark actively seeking to rebound. Reserve dynamic duo Antawn Jamison and Meeks made huge contributions; Jamison in the form of nine points, five rebounds and three blocks; Meeks with 14 points, including a perfect 4-4 from downtown.
Never Say Die – After a first half where they shot just 40% from the field, turned the ball over 11 times and allowed the Bobcats to score 53 points and commit just three turnovers, there was really nowhere else for the Lakers to go but up, and thankfully, that’s the direction the Lakers decided to journey. They outscored the home team 59-40 in the final two quarters, including a 31-15 fourth quarter to bring the game in their favor. They turned the ball over just twice in the entire half and forced Charlotte into 8 turnovers of their own. A 20-point lead could have easily turned into 25 or 30, but the Lakers bared down, played some defense
First-half – It didn’t take a genius to see that the Lakers were just not into this game when it began. Perhaps they were tired from having to play in their sixth game of this long road trip; or maybe getting to Charlotte from Boston at 3 am didn’t help; there was also Gasol’s absence in the rotation and the fact that the Bobcats seem to have the Lakers’ number the majority of the time that they meet. Whatever the reasons were, it was obvious the Lakers weren’t ready to play. They were sloppy and just downright careless (11 turnovers) and there were no signs it would be any different in the second half. Thankfully, they were a different team after halftime.
Just like the game at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn, Time Warner Cable Arena was filled with Laker fans who cheered when their team caught up and chanted “M-V-P” when Bryant was shooting free throws. It’s a testament to the loyalty of Laker fans who continue following their team, despite a less than stellar season. Six games into this long road trip, and the Lakers are at a respectable 4-2 so far. Next comes a challenge in Miami on Sunday afternoon against the defending champion Heat. Get your predictions in now, folks. It will be a good one.