Between Kobe Bryant playing with flu-like symptoms, the Lakers’ downward spiral of perimeter shooting, the 24 personal fouls committed, and the fact they were playing the Charlotte Bobcats – did we really expect a well-played night on the fourth game in five days? In short – yes, we sure did. After winning their first four games on this Grammy trip, and then falling to the Orlando Magic by double-digit points, it wasn’t the wildest idea to expect a better effort in tonight’s game. Unfortunately, the Lakers’ heads appear to be elsewhere, maybe home, because they were hardly present in Charlotte.
They began the game on a positive note, with Derek Fisher’s (6 points on 3-4) running layup followed by jump shots from Kobe Bryant (20 points on 8-20, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block), Andrew Bynum (9 points on 3-6, 6 rebounds, 2 assists) and Pau Gasol (17 points on 6-9, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals), to take an 8-2 lead. The Bobcats missed their first seven shot attempts and didn’t score until four minutes into the game. It would’ve been a good opportunity for the Lakers to take advantage, but after hitting their first four field goals, they missed their next five (three of which were layups). Charlotte took a 22-20 lead before the first quarter ended and never looked back.
The Lakers did little, if any, to defend Gerald Wallace, who led the Bobcats with 20 points on 9-16, collecting 11 rebounds along the way. He was joined by double-digit scorers Boris Diaw (16 points on 5-9), Nazi Mohammed (16 points on 7-11) and rookie Gerald Henderson (18 points on 6-9, 4 rebounds, 4 assists).
It was the third quarter that did the Lakers in. After going into halftime just six points behind the home team, the visitors managed to score only 17 points to Charlotte’s 29. They went through a scoreless two and half minute stretch where the deficit went from 7 points to 14. By the time Gerald Wallace’s three-point buzzer beater to end the third quarter gave the Bobcats an 18-point lead, Charlotte had literally taken then hoarded every second of momentum available and banked it for the final 12 minutes.
To go from bad to worse, in the first 1:41 of the fourth quarter, the Lakers were called for seven fouls. Bryant was called for two of those fouls in a span of eight seconds. The Bobcats played with all the confidence in the world, no thanks to the Lakers, who looked like they were ready to go back to the comforts of Staples Center. The lead ballooned to as much as 26 points before the 20-point gap in the end.
The Lakers shot just 44% for the game, which is not good enough when the Bobcats shot 51%. Their outside shooting is still suffering (3-19); Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom only took 24 shots COMBINED; and the other main reserves in the rotation, Shannon Brown and Steve Blake, shot just 2-12. The bench needs to be productive more often, and the Laker bigs have to be more aggressive, especially against teams who they have clear advantages over.
It’s been a while since the Lakers have been pulverized in this fashion, and after such a successful start to this Grammy road trip, it looked like these beatdowns were a thing of the past. Maybe it was just that weird Charlotte Bobcats curse. Maybe the Lakers are just downright exhausted playing their fourth game in five days. Or maybe, the Lakers need another meeting with Dr. Mumford, personal/organizational development consultant.
Pre-game Thoughts: Shake off yesterday’s loss and concentrate on getting over the unlucky, and very strange streak against the Charlotte Bobcats. That’s what the Lakers have to do if they want to steer this road trip back in the right direction. Kobe Bryant is said to have some flu-like symptoms so the rest of the team needs to step up.
Half-time Thoughts: 43-49 – The Lakers led 8-2 to begin the game but that’s as good as they looked. Their defense disappeared and, despite shooting just a bit better than Charlotte (44% to the Bobcats’ 41%), they had 10 turnovers to the home team’s 3, which made all the difference. Pau Gasol leads all scores with 12 points. He and Andrew Bynum need to take advantage of their advantage inside if they want to finish the game with a win.
Most Thoughtless Play(s)/Player(s) of the Game: Who WASN’T playing thoughtlessly for the Lakers tonight? They began strong then mailed it in in the third quarter. It’s been said much too often this season, but what a pathetic showing for the defending champs.
Most Thought-filled Play(s)/Player(s) of the Game: The Charlotte Bobcats, who give their audience a real show every single time the Lakers come to town.