AP Photo/Gerald Herbert
AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

Stu Lantz said it best when describing last night’s game: it was “a gut check of all gut checks”. With their season on the line the Lakers showed mental toughness and grit in coming back from 25 down against a sub-par team in the New Orleans Hornets.

The Lakers dug themselves a grave in the 2nd quarter and nearly slept in it early in the 4th quarter, but that’s when the momentum shifted to L.A.’s side. Jodie Meeks ignited the comeback with a barrage of 3’s and it was an offensive clinic by Kobe alongside arguably the best defensive performance of the year from Dwight.

This win as important as it is, especially considering both Utah and Houston lost, must be taken with a grain of salt considering who the opponent was. While the Hornets do have some nice young talent, they should not be able to gain a 25 point lead against the Lakers.

This win will galvanize the team, but let’s hope it doesn’t start a trend of the Lakers taking a 3 ½ quarter break before they “turn on the switch” and actually start playing hard. The Lakers are now 1 ½ games behind Utah for the 8th seed and 2 games behind Houston for the 7th seed. Let’s see how this team responds to this win in the next two games at home against Toronto and Chicago.

Ultimately, this season rides on how Pau will be re-integrated into the flow of the team as well as how healthy Dwight can be by the time the post season begins. Fans that have watched every game can notice Howard’s explosiveness coming back slowly, yet consistently as he can now jump more than once on any possession. A win is a win and this was one the Lakers badly needed and earned. Here are the grades for last night’s W:

 

Steve Nash: C

Nash was invisible at times during this game mainly because Kobe was doing just about everything on offense. Give credit to Nash for making the right plays and playing good defense on Greivis Vasquez down the stretch.

 

Kobe Bryant: A+

Aside from the 6 turnovers, this was about as well as Kobe has played all season. He was attacking the rim like he was wearing #8 again. Kobe worked the high screen-and-roll beautifully with Dwight which resulted in open lanes for Kobe, open 3’s for Jodie Meeks and/or easy alley-oops to Dwight. As crazy as it sounds, Kobe’s name should be right after LeBron James’ for the MVP race.

 

Metta World Peace: B

The 0 rebounds seem peculiar, but take into consideration that Metta was guarding Ryan Anderson for a majority of the game and Dwight was grabbing every rebound in the painted area. Metta hit some key 3’s and played stingy defense on Ryan Anderson for almost the entire second half.

 

Earl Clark: C

Not much of a performance for EC as he was limited to just 22 minutes and scored all 5 of his points from the charity stripe.

 

Dwight Howard: A

Dwight’s block on Robin Lopez to end the game was a beautiful thing to watch. He helped on the driver, rotated back to his man (Lopez), blocked the dunk attempt, corralled the rebound, and then quickly got it into the hands of a ball handler. If Dwight Howard ever fully recovers from his back injury, then this line from last night’s game of 20 pts, 15 reb, 4 blocks, and 3 steals will be known as an average for Dwight. That’s who the Lakers expect to carry their franchise for the next decade.

 

Jodie Meeks: A+

Great shooting night from Jodie on top of his game changing defensive play forcing Eric Gordon to step out of bounds and give the Lakers possession of the ball with :51 seconds to play. Jodie began the comeback with a few 3 pointers that gave life to the Lakers on the defensive end. Kobe handled the rest from there.

 

Antawn Jamison: B-

Not much from Antawn, but he was on the unit that brought the Lakers back into the game. Luckily Jodie was able to carry the load as far as bench scoring was concerned.

 

Steve Blake: B-

While he did not score, Steve Blake did dish out 7 assists in 22 minutes.