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:
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!