Photo courtesy of Jeff Gross, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Jeff Gross, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Jeff Gross, Getty Images

Talk about a game of runs. After falling behind 16-8 to start the game, the Lakers rattled off a 19-9 run to end the first quarter. Almost midway through the second quarter, the Lakers sat at a 40-29 lead, until the Bobcats closed the half on a 29-11 run of their own, which continued through the third quarter where the lead ballooned to 18 points. The fourth quarter run started with the Lakers, who scored 13 straight points to turn a deficit into a lead that they never relinquished.

Losers of 11 games in a row, the Bobcats were due for a win, and they’ve always had the Lakers’ number…but not this time. This time, the Lakers didn’t give up on the game (or each other) and made adjustments (or just woke themselves up) to avoid a loss and start racking up some wins, regardless of the opponent.

Tonight saw yet another Mike D’Antoni experiment with the opening line-up and rotation, starting Devin Ebanks in place of Metta World Peace, as well as the return of Pau Gasol after eight games of resting the tendinitis in his knees. Kobe Bryant saw more time in the small forward position (which D’Antoni indicated will occur more often as he plans to place MWP in the power forward spot), while Jodie Meeks enjoys an increase in his playing time in Bryant’s shooting guard role. The Lakers continue to be a work in progress, but at least they’re producing some victories as a result.

HIGH POINTS:

Metta World Peace – Starting or coming off the bench, it’s all the same to MWP who produced and made an impact either way. Being relegated to the pine after having such a great season wouldn’t sit well with many players, and Mike Brown already tried this last season without success, but that old version of MWP didn’t look or play like the current model. World-Peace may not have started the game, but he finished it and had over 36 minutes of playing time to prove his importance to this team.

His defense, as usual, was key. MWP’s active hands and desire to play every possession (offensive or defensive) is his trump card. Aside from his 17 points, he had seven rebounds, two assists, a block and four of the team’s six steals. He slapped the ball away from Kemba Walker and earned two free throws, and then showed Byron Mullens why it’s never a good a idea to turn his back on him when he could easily just take the ball from under your arm.

Kobe Bryant – In his seventh straight 30+ point game, Bryant continues to defy the critics. In a possession late in the game, the Lakers had 2.2 seconds left on the shot clock. He accepted the inbounds pass and calmly, from the corner, buried a three-pointer as he’s done so many times before. He had 30 points tonight, in addition to six rebounds, seven assists (equaling Kemba Walker’s assist total), a steal and a block of Bismack Biyombo’s attempt at the rim.

Dwight Howard – Let the stat line speak for itself: 16 points, 18 rebounds, four blocks, including a block in the final seconds of the game which prevented the Bobcats from

Pau Gasol – After missing two weeks and eight games of action, Gasol returned to the floor and, despite some expected rust, looked as active as we’ve seen all season. Actually, he’s never appeared this active this season. Whatever was ailing him a couple of weeks ago seems to have waned. He didn’t shoot at a very efficient rate (just 3-10), but neither did many of his teammates. It was his activity that was obvious. He had three blocks and five rebounds in the first quarter alone. He opened the fourth quarter with a driving layup, and then did a little give ‘n go with MWP, who scored easily at the hoop. On his way to the bench, Gasol let out a roar – which we haven’t seen him do in a long while. He finished with 10 points, nine rebounds, five assists and four blocks.

Second-half defense – After allowing the lowly Bobcats to scored 58 points in the first half (33 points in the second quarter) on 43% from the field, the Lakers tightened up their defense in the final quarter. After shooting 47% through three quarters, Charlotte scored just 16 points on 22% shooting from the field. Darius Morris was sent in to keep Kemba Walker in check. The young guard had gone off for 24 points on 10-19 before the final quarter, but Morris held him to just four points on 2-6. Since the Lakers didn’t’ shoot well (just under 40%), their defense helped a great deal in securing this victory.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Gross, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Jeff Gross, Getty Images

Scoring Load – Five players in double figures, including two from the bench. Even the shot attempts were relatively more even. Bryant had 24 shot attempts, but Dwight Howard, Gasol, Jodie Meeks and MWP all had double digit scoring.

Turnovers and Free throws – Only 11 turnovers for the game and 21-27 from the free throw line. Dwight Howard went 6-8 from the charity stripe. How about that?! In the last few games, he’s been standing about 6-7 inches from the line and since his free throws tend to be long, that half a foot has made all the difference.

LOW POINTS:

It’s the Charlotte Bobcats – …who have won just seven games and are riding an 11-game losing streak coming into Staples. There was no

reason the Lakers couldn’t have had an easier time winning tonight. That 11-point lead in the first quarter should’ve been the start of a blow-out, not an opportunity to get careless and allow Charlotte to take over. One of the worse defensive teams in the league, the Bobcats capitalized on all of the Lakers’ missed threes (they went just 10-31 from downtown) – long shots + long rebounds = run outs. The Lakers needed to focus on their strength inside more. 31 attempts from downtown with Gasol and Howard on the floor is just a waste.

Oh those pesky Bobcats. No matter how badly their season is going (and it’s literally been a bad season since they’ve been a team), they’ve always had the Lakers’ number. In fact, aside from the Boston Celtics, the Charlotte Bobcats are the only other team in the league with a winning record against this team…until tonight. Tonight the Lakers reached a .500 record with Michael Jordan’s team and get three days of rest before facing the sharp shooting Golden State Warriors on Saturday. Hopefully they can reach a .500 record overall and soon.

Box Score