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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Lakers Lose in Oklahoma City

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This face pretty much describes last night’s game against the Thunder. For the third time in four game against Oklahoma City, the Lakers’ defense took a night off and let the Thunder offense put on a show. Although the Lakers made a strong second half comeback, they could not handle the 71 first-half points from the Thunder. Oklahoma City pulled away late and won 122-105, winning the season series three games to one.

Despite a disgusting loss, there were a few positives in last night’s game. For starters, Kobe Bryant scored 30 points once again, and he now leads the NBA in 30-point games. He left the court in the first quarter after injuring his arm, so him dropping 30 was impressive. Also, Metta World Peace had a solid second half that got the Lakers back into the game. He ended the contest with 16 points on five-of-eleven shooting. Like World Peace, Steve Nash also had a solid second half and finished the game with 20 points.

For the fifth night in a row, the Lakers were able to shoot over 40 percent from long range. They made 12 out of their 29 attempts, with seven different players adding to the total. This recent surge of impressive three-point shooting gives Lakers fans something to be optimistic about. Not many teams are going to be able to keep up with the Lakers if they are able to shoot well from beyond the arc.

Los Angeles was also able to take 40 free throws last night while forcing 27 fouls. Although they were on the road, they were still able to take 16 more free throws than the Thunder (granted Oklahoma City did shoot better from the field). Of those 30 attempts, the Lakers were able to make over 75 percent of them despite Dwight Howard only shooting four-of-eight form the line.

That’s about it for the positives…there were plenty more negatives.

First of all, the first half from the Lakers was absolutely deplorable. As I stated earlier, the Thunder were able to score a whopping 71 points. I understand that Los Angeles does not hang their hat on their defense, but there has to be a point where pride steps in and stops the bleeding. The Lakers were able to score 55 points themselves, which should be enough to hang with anybody, but, as Bart Scott would say, they couldn’t stop a nosebleed. 

Giving up 71 points is quite a feat, but how they did it was equally, if not more, awful. The Thunder took 13 more shot attempts in the first two quarters, shooting 26-of-50 from the field. In addition, the Lakers were outscored 28-to-10 in the paint in the first half. With Dwight Howard down low, there should never be a discrepancy that large. The worst stat of the first half though was by far the turnover differential. While the Lakers turned the ball over 11 times, Oklahoma City only had one turnover in 24 minutes. 

The third quarter was a good one for the Lakers, as they outscored the Thunder by eight, but the fourth quarter was a let-down. Los Angeles made a push and cut the deficit to just five, but it went down quickly from there. The Lakers simply just ran out of gas. In the last five-and-a-half minutes, the Lakers did not score once and Oklahoma finished the game on a 12-0 run.

If the Lakers were to make the playoffs, there would be a good chance of them having to play Oklahoma City. I really do not hope this is the case because I do not think the Lakers match up well against them, especially against Russell Westbrook. The Lakers do not have a guard that can shut him down; not many teams do, but Los Angeles definitely does not. If the Lakers have a few more nights like this though, they won’t have to worry about the playoffs.

 

Kobe, Lakers Win Third In A Row

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Everybody who watches basketball knows what this face means. For those who don’t, it means that it’s time for Kobe Bryant to do work. The game face was on display today, and needless to say, Kobe did work. The Lakers won their third consecutive game this afternoon after edging the Mavericks 103-99.

Despite Dirk Nowitzki playing his best game of the season, scoring 30 points and adding 13 rebounds on 58 percent shooting, Kobe played better. In 38 minutes, Bryant dropped 38 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists on 62 percent shooting. After scoring 40 points on Friday while shooting 60+ percent, Bryant became the oldest player in NBA history to put up these numbers on back-to-back nights.

With the Lakers and Mavericks both scrapping for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, both teams fought as if this was a playoff game. There were 39 total fouls, three technical fouls, and 21 lead changes during the game. With these circumstances, and Dwight Howard staying in foul trouble throughout the entire game, Bryant needed to have a huge game.

Bryant also had to let his play quiet the loudmouth known as Mark Cuban, who claimed just a couple days before that the Lakers should amnesty Bryant when the season was done. After getting the last laugh, Bryant was able to further bury Cuban in a tweet that read simply, “Amnesty THAT.” 

Besides Bryant’s phenomenal game, there were not many other story lines to this game. But there were a few positives for the Lakers.

Steve Nash had his highest-scoring game of the season. Not only did Steve Nash shoot 7-of-12 from the field, but he was also able to shoot four out of five from beyond the arc, including clutch threes when the game was tight.

The three point shooting was key for the Lakers. The Mavericks forced more turnovers, shot pretty much the same percentage from the field and had almost the same amount of rebounds and assists, but Los Angeles had the advantage in three-point shooting. Dallas was able to make eight threes on 44 percent shooting, but the Lakers were able to make 13 three-pointers on 52 percent shooting. Whenever the Lakers needed a big shot, either Bryant, Nash, Antawn Jamison or Jodie Meeks was able to hit a big three for the Lake Show. This proved to be more than important down the stretch.

Although it is great to see the Lakers creep to within one game of .500, they will be tested tomorrow night when they take on the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center. Let’s just hope that Kobe has some gas left in the tank, but at this point, should we even worry?

 

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.