Bryant Leads Furious Lakers Comeback Victory Over Hornets

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An alley-oop thrown down by the Hornets’ Al-Farouq Aminu with just under nine minutes to play in the fourth quarter put the final nail in the Lakers’ coffin. Luckily, for Lakers fans, Kobe Bryant doesn’t give up. The Lakers were able to demolish New Orleans and their 17 point lead in under nine minutes, winning the game 108-102.

It was amazing to see the Lakers show so much fight in the game, yet, at the same time, Los Angeles should have never been in that predicament in the first place. There were definitely some negatives in last night’s contest, but we can start with the positives.

Kobe Bryant: Vino. Mamba. King Kobe. This man is just an absolute beast. In his 17th season in the NBA, he played 42 of the 48 minutes in the 62nd game of the season while playing the entire second half. Just being out on the court that much and that late in the season is a feat in itself. Here’s the stat line from ESPN:

MIN FG’s 3P’s FT’s OREB DREB REB AST STL BLK TO PF +/- PTS
42 14-21 3-7 11-14 0 7 7 12 0 1 6 0 +16 42

Sure, the six turnovers in the game looks bad, but the man also played 42 minutes. Outside of that, his numbers are astounding. He scored 42 points while shooting 67 percent. He shot close to 50 percent from beyond the arc and shot around 80 percent from the line. In addition, he added seven rebounds and 12 assists. There aren’t even a handful of guys in the league capable of doing this, nevermind when you add in the age factor. He’s all alone. He was clutch down the stretch, hitting shot after shot, including a go-ahead jumper with under 40 seconds left and a breakaway dunk, which was the real final nail in the coffin.

Dwight Howard: Finally. Sure, Howard pulled down his fair share of rebounds over the last two games (31 to be exact), but the scoring was nowhere to be found. Against both Oklahoma City and Atlanta, Howard scored a combined 17 points on 6-of-19 shooting. For a man who claimed recently that he was still the best center in the game, he was not showing it on the offensive end. Last night was different. Despite playing most of the game with foul trouble, Howard still managed to play 35 minutes. In that time, Howard had one of his best all-around performances of the season, scoring 20 points on 9-of-16 shooting on the offensive end and pulling down 15 rebounds, adding three steals and blocking four shots on the defensive end, including a clutch, left-handed block on Robin Lopez. It was nice to see Howard play a solid game on both sides of the ball.

Jodie Meeks: He is not always the most consistent player off the bench for the Lakers. They brought him in this year knowing that he could really shoot the basketball, and he showed that last night. He saw 26 minutes of playing time and made the most of it, knocking down five three’s en route to a clutch, 19-point performance. He was the only member of the Los Angeles bench to have a positive plus/minus, and in his time on the court, the Lakers outscored the Hornets by 19 points, a total higher than any other Laker player. I’m not saying that I expect performances like this every night from him, but Los Angeles does need to see more of this if they want to be a serious playoff contender down the stretch.

33-9: That was the score of the fourth quarter; Lakers 33, Hornets 9. Going into the fourth, the Lakers were down 18 points. Three minutes in, the outlook was bleak, as the Hornets still had a controlling 17-point lead. But, for the second night in a row, Los Angeles mounted a furious rally, this time a successful one. New Orleans only made four shots the entire quarter, and none in the final half of the fourth. In the final 6:30 of the contest, Los Angeles went 7-of-10 from the field while scoring 20 points. The Hornets shot 0-of-12 from the field and scored zero points. That, my friends, is how you finish a basketball game.

This game wasn’t all beautiful though, as I can really only glorify one quarter. Here are some numbers that the Lakers need to improve on.

67: That’s the number of points that New Orleans scored in the first half. Really, Lakers? Just one night before, Oklahoma City put up 71 points in the first half. Being that it is the Thunder, at least it makes sense. But, the now 21-41 Hornets? No. Unacceptable. If the Lakers had played just about any other team last night, they would have gotten run out of the gym for the second straight night.

36: The Lakers were out-rebounded last night 36 to 52. I know that without Pau Gasol, the Lakers are not quite as big as they once were. But, Los Angeles has been without Gasol for over a month now and they still rank fourth in the Association at 44.5 rebounds per game. New Orleans ranks 22nd in the NBA. With a discrepancy like that, not many teams could win a game, but I guess the “W” is all that matters.

2: In 48 minutes of play, Los Angeles was only able to score two fast break points, which came from Kobe’s dunk with under 30 seconds to go in the game. The Lakers are not a young and fast team. I get that. Two points though? How are the Lakers supposed to match up with other teams in the West like Denver, who averages 19.7 fast break points per game? Or Oklahoma City, who puts up 17.1 points per game on the fast break? This is probably the most worrisome stat for me because this is going to be the hardest issue to fix.

The Lakers won, which is good news. There is even better news, though. Last night, Utah squandered a lead on the road and lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers, 104-101. After last night’s games, Los Angeles has now moved to within a game-and-a-half of the Jazz for the eighth spot in the West with 20 games left to play. Things are looking up in Lakerland!

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Suns/Lakers Preview

Lakers try to put drama behind them as they return from long trip

The Lakers finished off their annual Grammys road trip on Sunday in a losing effort to the Heat. The loss brought the Lakers’ record to 4-3 on the trip, and their overall road record to an appalling 9-18 this season. 

Luckily, the Lakers are back at the Staples Center, where they are a much better 15-10. Tonight, they look to avenge their loss against the Phoenix Suns after losing 92-86 in Phoenix in the first game of their Grammys road trip.

Keys to the game: The Lakers must rebound the ball. Since Pau Gasol injured his foot in Brooklyn, the Lakers have been unable to out-rebound their opponents over the last three games, despite ranking third in the NBA in rebounding. Suns center Marcin Gortat managed to pull down 12 rebounds, including four offensive, in their last meeting. Both Earl Clark and Dwight Howard must be ready to rebound the basketball tonight.

The Lakers also need to not turn the ball over. As of today, the Lake Show ranks 25th in turnovers per game, giving the ball away over 15 times per game. This stat also proved to be crucial in their last match-up against Phoenix. Los Angeles turned the ball over 19 times while falling apart and squandering a double-digit, fourth quarter lead. Good ball handling from Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash will be crucial.

Prediction: I am confident when I say that Los Angeles will win this game tonight. Last time, they had everything going for them until the fourth quarter. The Lakers were also forced to play much of that fourth quarter without Howard, who re-aggravated his right shoulder. Despite a tumultuous fourth quarter against Miami, the Lakers were very efficient shooting the ball, while Kobe played well as both a scorer and a facilitator. The Lakers want revenge, and I think they will get it tonight. I like Los Angeles to win 112-96.

 

David Stern Wants to Get Rid of Hack-A-Shaq

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After noticing an outpouring of teams recently taking advantage of the “Hack-A-Shaq” tactic on new Lakers center Dwight Howard, NBA commissioner David Stern is looking to flex his authoritative muscles again and abolish the strategy. In his assertion, Stern claimed that this strategy was ‘ludicrous’. My question for the commish is simply, why?

I am an avid fan of the Lakers and have been for some time now. I am also a big Dwight Howard fan and watching him shoot free throws practically makes my eyes bleed. But when a team decides that they want to use their fouls to put a poor free throw shooter at the line, then why can’t they?

Deciding to foul Howard repeatedly is not unfair to the big man because teams and players are not allowed to foul an infinite amount of times. Teams are only allowed to foul the other team four times in one quarter before the victim of the foul gets to shoot free throws. So for every foul that is wasted, that gives an opportunity to another Lakers’ player to get fouled at some point and go to the line.

Like any other competitive sport, game plans stem from strategy. What this tactic is is truly genius. Why let a dominant seven-footer control the paint when you can make him take his worst shot? Anybody in their right mind would put Dwight on the line. He is shooting under 60 percent in his career, and under 48 percent this season; he shows no signs of ever being able to make the shot. If the blame falls on anybody, it is Howard.

Stern needs to realize that he needs to let the league breathe a little. Less than two weeks ago, Stern fined the San Antonio Spurs organization $250,000 after Gregg Popovich chose to let Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green miss their game against the Miami Heat. Stern did this because the fans missed out on seeing four great players play in their only game in Miami, forgetting that these players are human and do indeed need rest.

The commissioner is set to step down on February 1st, 2014; that is hardly over a year away. Stern needs to take a step back and not put his two cents into everything that happens until then. Basketball is a beautiful game, and fouling a player will not take anything away from it. If Howard was really that bothered, then he would take initiative and work on his free throws. He said himself that he did not plan on changing anything, so why should the league?