With six minutes left in the 3rd quarter, the Bobcats held a 73-51 lead. The Lakers had been playing awfully throughout the game up until that point — and the bad stretches included no new problems: the defense was shoddy, guards were able to get into the lane at will, the rotations were slow, there were a plethora of turnovers and there was very little movement on the offensive end. Even when guys found themselves open, shots weren’t falling and the long rebounds led to fast break opportunities. From the beginning of the Celtics loss to the end of the first half of tonight’s game, the Lakers were minus 33, with no signs that things would change.
To start the third, the Bobcats pushed their lead to 16 points, the Lakers took a timeout, and then watched as the lead balloon to 22 points with six minutes left in the third. With 18 minutes left to play in the game, the score was 73-51 and I was (admittedly) ready to walk a plank — and things began to turn. Jodie Meeks and Antawn Jamison really closed out the quarter well. From the six minute mark in the third until the end of the game, Meeks and Jamison combined for 14 points and seven rebounds on five-for-eight shooting and three-for-four from deep. They were the spark for the comeback, but it was Kobe and Earl Clark who really drove the stake into the collective hearts of the Bobcats.
During those last 18 minutes, Kobe scored 16 of his 20 points and four of his eight assists. He got a lot of touches from 15-feet and in from both sides of the floor and just picked his spots. Much like the first half, when Kobe touched the ball, there was very little movement off the ball despite Charlotte throwing double-teams at him on every touch. Unlike the first half, Kobe became more aggressive looking for his own shot. He was forced into quite a bit of contested, turn-around or fall-away jumpers, which weren’t exactly ideal, but largely needed with the offense being as stagnant as it was in the first half.
Kobe ended up turning the corner on the baseline a couple of times to get to the rim with the double coming from the middle of the paint. He hit a shot over Byron Mullens outstretched arms after a 2-4 P&R with Earl Clark. The jumper was sandwiched between the two baseline layups, which ultimately cut the Bobcats lead to one. With about 2:20 left to play, Bean hit a tough jumper off the glass over Gerald Henderson to give the Lakers a 94-91 lead, and a transition layup with about 0:45 left to play pretty much iced the game for the Lakers. Kobe shot 5-10 during that stretch, and the misses were largely shots taken with no one else moving off the ball.
The team was also to come up with some huge stops during the last six or so minutes of the game. Howard was able to alter some shots at the rim. They forced the Bobcats into some contested jumpers that weren’t taken on their end of the floor all game and forced a couple of 24 second violations.
This wasn’t the prettiest win of the season for the Lakers. In fact, this is the second time this season that the Lakers were down huge to the Bobcats and came back to win. During their first meeting, they fell down by 18 and had to claw their way back to a win. Now, they’ve secured a winning record for this Grammy trip as they look ahead to their match up against Miami (who is currently up by 25 points against the Clippers, Lebron looks so good). A 4-3 trip isn’t bad, but a 5-2 trip would be much better. The game against Miami is on Sunday, hopefully a miracle is in the works.