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Gross. Gritty. Grotesque. Gruesome.

For three quarters, the Lakers and Pacers engaged in one of the ugliest games of the season. Both teams were shooting under 40 percent from the field and both teams were shooting lest than 43 percent around the rim. There were loads of bunnies missed right at the bucket way too many long twos were taken and the two teams had combined to shoot six-for-19 on mid-range jump shots. Also through three quarters, both teams were reckless with the ball with each team turning it over 13 times.

For much of the season, these were the kind of games that the Pacers seemed to win and the Lakers seemed to lose. And with two of their best four players in Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol sidelined with injuries (Kobe gave his ankle a go in the first quarter, but wasn’t able to return), the writing seemed like it was on the wall — the Lakers would be heading home with another road loss. The Pacers went into the fourth quarter with a one-point lead, a healthier lineup, a better bench unit and more size to collect the rebound from misses that came at an alarming rate up until that point.

Then the fourth quarter happened. Both teams lifted their collective games and some fantastic basketball was played. While the Lakers may have run a variety of sets in the fourth quarter, they largely ran their offense through Dwight, looking to get him the ball in the post on both sides of the lane, giving him room to operate and sliding down to the wing to receive open passes should a post up stall. They ran a series of P&Rs between Nash and Dwight, they ran the Horns sets a few times and even got the ball to Howard through the center-opposite action a few times.

The variety in the Lakers sets down the stretch kept the Indiana defense on their heels, and allowed for the Lakers to shoot some open jumpers — that they were actually able to knock down. They cut down on the number of long twos that they shot in the fourth (only three of their 20 fgas were between 15 feet and the 3-point line, and they made two of those). And it wasn’t only hitting the shots, but the timeliness of the shots that they made were huge.

There were five times in the fourth quarter where the Lakers recaptured the lead after the Pacers either tied the game or took the lead. Steve Blake’s three pointer after sliding down to the left wing during a Dwight post up; Steve Nash’s pull up 17-footer with 7:45 left to play; Earl Clark’s three-pointer to put the Lakers back up three after Paul George knocked down a game tying three of his own; Blake’s 2nd three pointer of the quarter following George Hill’s floater over Dwight that gave Indiana a one-point lead; and then Dwight’s layup that he slammed off the backboard with his right hand after Hill’s mid-range jumper tied the game — all huge plays for the Lakers down the stretch.

And when the Lakers took that final lead off of Howard’s layup with about 1:30 left to play in the game, they held onto the lead and closed out the game. The Pacers shot two-for-six in the final 90 seconds while Jamison hit a huge three to extend the lead to two possessions and Howard was able to get a break away dunk off of a loose ball that essentially put the game on ice.

This wasn’t just a huge win because it was on the road against a good team without two of their best players, it was also a huge win because of the way they won. The Lakers, even when winning, haven’t been able to pull out the ugly victories much this season. They didn’t shoot well to begin the game. Hell, they didn’t shoot well through the first three quarters. But they played hard for those three quarters to keep them within striking distance going into the fourth. They worked hard on the defensive end by contesting shots at the rim (Indiana shot 43 percent on field goals at the rim tonight). They could have done a much better job of running shooters off of the line, but for the most part the defensive energy was good enough to keep the Pacers offensive attack off balance.

D’Antoni got solid contributions from almost everyone who played tonight. Steve Blake and Antawn Jamison were the keys tonight. Blake was five-for-eight from the field with 18 points, but he stuffed the stat sheet adding six rebounds, seven assists, four steals and two blocks while only committing one turnover. Jamison wasn’t as spectacular, but he shot six-for-10 from the field with 17 points and hit a couple of timely threes to help the Lakers cause down the stretch.

Dwight and Ron were both very good tonight for the starting unit. Dwight had 20 points on seven-for-17 shooting, but showed tons of maturity during the fourth quarter allowing the offense to run through him and constantly making the right play. He had a few shots that didn’t fall around the rim, mainly do to a lack of touch, but his kick out to Steve Blake and an absolutely gorgeous pass to a cutting Jamison that was almost Shaq-esque really stood out. Ron, who was a bit reckless in some instances as he sometimes is, played a decent game, and hit a few shots in the third quarter to help keep the game from getting away from them after Indiana got off to a hot start to begin the 2nd half.

All-in-all, I was largely impressed with the grit this team had tonight. Road wins against a tough, physical teams come at a premium — and with a series of very winable games over the next week and a half (v. Sac, @PHX, v. Was, @GS, @MIN). The Lakers are putting themselves in position to not only make the post season, but maybe finish with either the seventh or sixth seeds, pulling them away from a first-round match up against the Spurs or Thunder. While there is still a lot of hoops left to be played, you have to love what they were able to do tonight.

Tonight was an absolutely ugly game from both teams. Los Angeles were coming in after a win in Orlando while the Hawks were coming off of a huge loss from Miami, and the game looked like both teams were on the second half of a back-to-back. The Hawks would ultimately win this game 96-92, but they did everything they could down the stretch to give it away.

The two biggest problems for the Lakers tonight was their poor shot selection and their missed defensive assignments. Kobe came out chucking the ball like he did in the Orlando game, and wasn’t able to hit on anything until late in the second quarter. Kobe took a lot of contested jump shots and went into the half with three points on 1-8 shooting. There were too many possessions where Kobe spent more time dribbling the ball than actively looking to make plays for either himself or his teammates. Instead of playing within the flow of the game, it seemed like he was constantly looking to get himself going after a couple of down games — which ultimately ended up with him having another down game (31 points on 33 shots with five of the Lakers eight turnovers).

The offense never really got into a groove on the night. Kobe set the tone early with long jumpers, and that’s what the rest of the team did the rest of the night. 47 of their 92 shots tonight were from at least 15 feet and out, including 29 three pointers. Of those 47 shots, they only made 11, which is a staggering 23 percent. A lot of these longer shots turned into fast breaks for the Hawks, who scored 11 fast break points and plenty more on secondary breaks. This also led to quite a few kick out three pointers after guards got into the lane after Lakers defenders failed to get back on the defensive end in a timely fashion.

On the other end of the floor, we saw more signs of the Lakers playing on the 2nd of a back-to-back. The rotations were constantly slow, guys were getting beat off the dribble and guys weren’t able to find their man off the ball. There were several times, especially early as the Hawks built their biggest lead of 14 where Kobe got sucked into the lane hoping to help out on either Horford or Johan Petro and ended up getting burnt by a three point shooter or a cutter back door. With Earl Clark going down early with an ankle injury, the Hawks were able to clean up some of the boards and guy like Petro was able to record a double-double.

The second half looked a bit better for the Lakers — especially Kobe — who shot eight-for-16 in the third quarter and recorded 20 points to keep them within striking distance. In the fourth, the Lakers were able to take a four point lead, but weren’t able to hold onto the lead or recapture it down the stretch because they simply couldn’t make shots. The Lakers were 3-11 in the last five minutes of the game, which included two missed bunnies from Kobe and Ron that would have given the Lakers a one-point lead with about a minute left to play. The Hawks’ John Jenkins and Kyle Korver missed free throws down the stretch, but the Lakers weren’t able to take advantage of them.

The loss for the Lakers was huge, but they may have suffered an even bigger loss if they end up losing Kobe for an extended period. He attempted a game tying jumper with about two seconds left to play and landed on Dahntay Jones’ foot, spraining his ankle. Kobe was able to walk off the floor under his own power and his X-rays were negative, but according to Yahoo! Sports Adrian Wojnarowski, Kobe will be out indefinitely.

With Kobe, you never know what that means as he’s played through so many injuries, but tonight, it’s not the greatest sign moving forward. The Jazz lost, so they’ll hold onto their 8th spot out West for another day, but the Mavericks are coming on strong (1 game back), so not having Kobe for just one game could be really tough to overcome, especially with the Pacers up next on the schedule.

Records: Lakers 30-30 (9th in the West), Thunder 43-16 (2th in the West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 107.7 (8th in the NBA), Thunder 112.8 (1st in the NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 106.4 (16th in the NBA), Thunder 102.9 (8th in the NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Earl Clark, Dwight Howard
Thunder: Russell Westbroo, Thabo Sefolosha, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins
Injuries: Lakers: Pau Gasol (out), Jordan Hill (out for the season); Thunder: None

Thunder Blogs: Make sure you’re keeping up with Daily Thunder for all of your OKC news.

Keys to the Game: Coming into tonight’s match up against the Thunder, it’s hard to expect the Lakers to record only the fifth win for a road team in Oklahoma City this year. The Thunder have been nearly unbeatable at home — and in two of the three games this season — have been much better than the Lakers on the floor. It took a rough shooting night from both Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant (the combined for 33 percent from the field) and six Lakers to score in double figures to squeak out a win at home. However, should the Lakers win tonight, it would be a humungous boost in their quest for a playoff spot. They’ve been getting some help from the other teams vying for the last two spots out west (thanks, Utah!) and they’ve been helping themselves with their 5-1 record since the All-Star break. A loss to the Thunder tonight wouldn’t be devastating, but they really could use a big win. Let’s take a look at some of the factors that will need to go in the Lakers direction tonight for another win against OKC.

One of the reasons that the Lakers were so successful against the Thunder in their last meeting was because of the less than stellar performance from Russell Westbrook. Russ didn’t just shoot six-for-22 from the field, but he took myriad terrible shots while he tried to find his rhythm that essentially pushed him further away from his groove with each attempt. He took a lot of shots that we aren’t used to seeing Russ take — the two post-up fade aways over Nash that both missed badly immediately come to mind. Westbrook was also taking a lot of mid-to-long range jump shots early on, which helped the Lakers tremendously. Westbrook is one of those guys who, if he finds an early rhythm, he’s damn near impossible to contain. Fortunately, the Lakers were able to minimize their turnovers (only 13) and didn’t take too many long range shots. And when they did (four of the five transition layups Westbrook attempted were a result of a missed three pointer or a turnover), the Lakers were able to get back in transition and contest his shots at the rim. If you take a look at Westbrook’s shot chart, it’s exactly what you want to see. Lots of medium and mid-ranged jump shots and more misses than makes around the rim. A lot of this can be attributed to Westbrook’s poor shot selection, but the Lakers, namely Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol, did a great job of protecting the rim as he tried to get buckets in the paint.

Westbrook Shot Chart

The Lakers are also going to need a huge contribution off the bench if they’re going to be successful in Oklahoma City. In each of the last two games against the Thunder, the Lakers bench has outplayed the Thunder bench. On January 11, Kevin Martin scored 15 points, but was neutralized by Antwan Jamison’s 19 points and 10 rebounds off the bench. In the Lakers win, Pau Gasol and Jamison combined for 28 points on 11-for-16 shooting. According to, the efficiency differential in each of those games was a positive one for the Lakers bench (+19 in the loss, +6 in the win). Tonight, the Lakers bench will be without Pau Gasol, Jordan Hill (injured) or Earl Clark (starting), so it’s going to be essential for Jamison to step up and be the lone Lakers big off the bench. It’ll also be essential for Jodie Meeks and Steve Blake to knock down the open shots that they’ll likely receive. Meeks, Jamison and Blake have played relatively well since the All-Star Break, they’ll have to continue trending up if the Lakers are going to pull out a win tonight.

What might be the most important aspect to tonight’s match up will be how the Lakers defend Kevin Durant. In the previous match up, Earl Clark and Ron Artest split time as the primary defender on Durant with shocking results. Clark had a much better night guarding the league’s defending scoring champ, holding him to seven points on 3-for-11 shooting. When Ron got the assignment? Durant did most of his heavy lifting hitting five of 10 shots for 11 points. The staggering difference between the two lies in Ron’s declining foot speed and the added length with Clark as the defender. Clark did a great job of running Durant off of his spots, going over screens and closing out on jump shots (the one three that Durant did make, Clark got sucked in on a Westbrook drive). With Ron guarding Durant, Scott Brooks had Durant play off the ball a lot more and ran him through a series of screen. Down the stretch, Brooks didn’t run Durant much, but put Ron and Earl in off-ball screen situations to create the favorable match up for Durant.

Where you can watch: 6:30pm start time on TNT. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM.


With their 116-94 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Lakers have moved to a 4-1 record since the All-Star break, one game under .500 and two games behind the Houston Rockets for the eighth and final seed in the Western Conference. While the Lakers did play well tonight, the implications of the win are much more important than how they actually went about winning the game. With a home loss to a very beatable team in the Timberwolves, it would have put the Lakers back three games behind the Houston Rockets with games against the Hawks, Thunder and Bulls coming up in the next five. And while the other five teams competing for the last 2-3 playoff spots (Utah, Houston, Golden State, and Portland) have all been struggling recently, it’s not in the Lakers best interest to keep pace with their struggles if their ultimate goal is to make the post season. Considering their upcoming schedule — 12 of the last 23 games will come against non-playoff and/or bubble-playoff teams — they have an opportunity to finish the season very strongly, and could very well end up as high as the seventh seed. I’m not necessarily trying to get ahead of Sunday’s game against the Hawks, but merely pointing out the importance of a mundane win over the Timberwolves at this point in the season. Every win matters from here on out, and losses will seemingly matter more.

Before we look ahead to Sunday, let’s take a look at what they did well tonight.

Continue Reading…

As expected, the Lakers didn’t make any moves as the NBA Trade Deadline came and passed. With the Lakers struggling to get back to .500 this year, many wondered if another big move was on the horizon for the Forum Blue and Gold, but there was never anything that made any sense. There were rumblings about both Howard and Pau Gasol being moved (which would have potentially been a bit louder had he not been injured). But in reality, the Lakers don’t have any pieces that other teams want that they want to move. Going into this trade season, it was expected that the team the Lakers had before the All-Star break would be the team that they finished with at the end of the season. The nature of the contracts, the ages of the guys with those contracts, and the fact that this team hasn’t really gotten a chance to really play together as a unit — especially under D’Antoni’s system.

Furthermore, there were no trades that were of the blockbuster caliber. J.J. Redick was the centerpiece in the most high profile trade of the day, and Thomas Robinson was the headliner in the biggest (and only) trade from yesterday. While I won’t provide much analysis here (i.e. none) here’s a look at all of the trades from the last two days.

Orlando-Milwaukee Trade
Orlando gets: Beno Udrih, Doron Lamb, and Tobias Harris
Milwaukee gets: J.J. Redick, Gustavo Ayon and Ish Smith

Houston-Sacramento-Phoenix Trade
Houston gets: Thomas Robinson and a future 2nd Round Pick
Sacramento gets: Patrick Patterson, Cole Aldrich and Toney Douglas
Phoenix gets: Marcus Morris

Portland-Oklahoma City Trade
Portland gets: Eric Maynor
Oklahoma City gets: The draft rights to Giorgio Printezis

Oklahoma City-New York Trade
Oklahoma City gets: Ronnie Brewer
New York gets: 2nd Round Pick

Dallas-Atlanta Trade
Dallas gets: Anthony Morrow
Atlanta gets: Dahntay Jones

Atlanta-Philadelphia-Golden State Trade
Atlanta gets: Jeremy Tyler
Philadelphia gets: Charles Jenkins
Golden State Gets: Two 2nd Round Picks, one from each team

Charlotte-Orlando Trade
Charlotte gets: Josh McRoberts
Orlando gets: Hakim Warrick

Boston-Washington Trade
Boston gets: Jordan Crawford
Washington gets: Leandro Barbosa

Phoenix-Toronto Trade
Phoenix gets: Hamed Haddadi and a 2nd Round Pick
Toronto gets: Sebastian Telfair

Memphis-Miami Trade
Memphis gets: Dexter Pittman
Miami gets: Trade Exception

Good evening, Forum Blue and Gold. This is Phillip Barnett checking in from Houston. I’m in the Toyota Center for the festivities and I’ll be live-blogging all of the events tonight with updates from Texas. Make sure to check back here every 10-15 minutes for new content and follow me on twitter (@imsohideouss) for more frequent quips about All Star Saturday Night.


7:37 – James Harden’s team kicks this off the Shooting Stars challenge with a solid time of 37.7. They were my favorites coming into this. Westbrook’s team came right in and obliterated their score with a nice 29.5.

The scoring for this competition is a bit awkward as it’s East v. West — so the two times are added for a total of 107.4. Both Western Conference teams didn’t take much time to make the half court shot, I’m not sure if the Eastern Conference is going to replicate the West’s performance.

7:44 – Chris Bosh’s team didn’t exactly come out hot, and finished with a 50-second mark meaning Brook Lopez’s team would need a 17.3 to beat the Western Conference. Eh… not happening. Not only did they not hit the 17-second mark, they ended up with the worst time of the night of 1:07, the same score of the two Western Conference teams combined.

The Western Conference earns 20 points toward the overall conference competition. There is $500,000 worth of charity donations at stake for the winning conference. The West has jumped out to an early lead.

7:53 – For the championship round, Chris Bosh’s team had a worse performance than their first round with a time of 1:29. Dominique Wilkins, a career 31 percent three point shooter, was tasked with hitting the first three for the East, but took a boat load of shots to knock it down. Gothic Ginobili’s Adam Koscielac tweeted this gem:

However, the Russell Westbrook squad couldn’t hit a half court shot after getting off to a huge start early. They got to the half court shot after only about 20 seconds. The Eastern Conference wins 10 points in the overall competition for winning the championship. The West still leads 20-10.

After winning the Shooting Stars competition, Chris Bosh was asked to compare the win to winning the title.”It was so close. It’s so close. Winning is winning, but, you know, it was a good time,” said Bosh. “This is my first time participating in it. So to actually win is pretty cool.”

Here’s the winning round of the Shooting Stars competition, courtesy of


8:06 – Jeff Teague didn’t get things off to a great start for the Eastern Conference. He started off missing passes, then took a few attempts to make the jumper, then missed a few more passes, then missed the layup to end the night. His 49.4 was easily eclipsed by Brandon Knight’s 32.2. He missed a few jumpers, but he has a pretty clean round. Drew Holiday was even cleaner with only one missed shot. Holiday’s final time was 29.3, which moves him into the championship round. The combined time is 150.9, which is what the Western Conference will have to surpass to win the team competition.

8:13 – The hometown favorite Jeremy Lin didn’t get off to the best start with a time of 35.8, but he got the Western Conference off to a better start than the Eastern Conference. Damien Lillard had the cleanest round of the night with no missed shots or passes. His total time was 28.8. Tony Parker, the defending champion, ended up with the worst time of the night with 48.7 and lost the team competition for the Western Conference. The Eastern Conference now has a 40-20.

8:21 – Jrue Holiday got the championship round started off with a sub-par 35.6 round. He missed an early pass and a couple jump shots to put him in a tough spot. Damien Lillard, who is the front runner for rookie of the year, had a much quicker round of 29.8. He missed two passes and one jump shot, but was much quicker from spot-to-spot and gave the Western Conference annother 10 points. The East is still leading though, 40-30.

Here’s Damien Lillard’s winning round in the Skills Competition:

Zach Harper tweeted this brilliant idea for the Skills Competition:

These tweets on Phillip Phillips’ performance were fun:


8:42 – Stephen Curry got off to a pretty slow start in the 3-point shoot out, but picked things up in the last two racks to finish with 17. Ryan Anderson was the exact opposite. He started off hot, but cooled off at the third rack, yet he still finished with more than Curry with 18. Bonner started off 5-5 after the first rack and ended on top for the Western Conference with 19 points. That’s an overall total score of 54 for the Western Conference. That’s the standard that the Eastern Conference is going to beat. Bonner’s has one of the most mechanically pure forms I’ve ever seen.

8:53 – The Eastern Conference off to another slow start, this time in the 3-point contest. Kyrie Irving got things started off with 18 points, and watch as Paul George only record 10 points and Steve Novak only record 17, even after a pretty hot start. The Eastern Conference surrenders 40 points to the West after their poor performance in the team round. The score heading into the championship is 70-40.

9:00 – In the championship round, Kyrie Irving was hitting early and often. He finished with an overall score of 23 — two off off the all time record. Matt Bonner got off to a slow start, heated up, but couldn’t knock down a key money ball on the fourth rack to keep him close. The Red Mamba finished with 20 points and Kyrie’s excellent All-Star Weekend continues. I enjoyed this Josh Zavdil tweet during Kyrie’s run.

Here’s Kyrie Irving’s winning round from the 3-point contest.


9:26 – Gerald Green got things started with a sick off the side of the back board alley-oop. He almost hit his head on the rim. It was pretty absurd and it earned him a perfect 50. Up next was James White, he walked into the arena with a flight crew and had the biggest buzz before his dunk. Unfortunately, he was a bit disappointing with a free throw line dunk from a foot and a half in front of the line. His leaping ability is impressive, but the dunk was underwhelming considering what we’ve seen in the past. Last for the Eastern Conference was Terrance Ross with a slick behind the back 360 that earned him a perfect 50.

For the Western Conference, there wasn’t anything too impressive. Kenneth Faried threw it off the backboard, caught it after a 360, but jammed it down kind of weak. Eric Bledsoe tried to throw one down from an alley-oop between the legs, but failed on a few attempts before throwing down a regular dunk. Jeremy Evans was the most impressive with grabbing the ball from a sitting Mark Eaton and throwing down a reverse on the other side of the rim.

9:39 – The second round of dunks for the Eastern Conference were pretty unimpressive. Both James White and Gerald Green failed to make their dunk while Terrance Ross made a pretty simple off the bounce self alley-oop dunk. The Western Conference was much better. Faried caught an alley-oop and threw it between his legs before throwing it down. Eric Bledsoe caught a self alley-oop and 360’d before throwing it through the iron. Jeremy Evans grabbed two balls and dunked them both after a 360. The WC dunks gave them the team competition win and a 140-70 lead.

10:03 – The final round showed some pretty impressive dunks. Jeremy Evans got things started off by dunking over a covered easel. After the dunk, he revealed a painting of him dunking over an easel. Ross followed that up by putting on a Vince Carter jersey and caught a pass off the side of the back board and threw down a 360 a la young VC.

The second round of dunks saw Evans catch a pass from Dahntay Jones and nearly jumped through the roof before throwing it down. Ross brought out a ball boy and jumped over him while going between the legs for the jam.

Ross ended up winning the dunk contest after the fan vote and the Western Conference ended up winning the conference battle. Check out some of the better dunks from tonight’s performances:

Terrance Ross Behind the back 360

Kenneth Faried through the legs

Eric Bledsoe sick reverse jam

Tonight, Kobe scored 28 points on 19 shots with nine assists and six rebounds — and he was only the third best basketball player on the court tonight. When your best player has a fantastic game, and two guys from the other team have better nights, it just isn’t in the cards for you to win that basketball game. Dwyane Wade scored 15 of his 30 points in the all-telling fourth quarter. His 30 points came on 12-for-18 shooting with five assists and two rebounds. And then there was LeBron James, who, according to Alias Sports Bureau, James has joined Moses Malone and Adrian Dantley as the only three guys to have five straight games with at least 30 points and shoot at least 60 percent from the field. During Bron’s current five-game stretch, he’s shooting over 70% from the field.

There were lots of good things we saw in today’s game outside of Kobe’s brilliance. We can begin with Earl Clark, who was great scoring the ball, passing the ball, and hitting the glass. His box score numbers were outstanding (18 points, nine rebounds, one assist), but his propensity to do things that benefit the team that are outside of the box score are what continue to impress. What he’s been doing on the offensive end throughout this past month and a half haven’t gone without notice, but his range as a defender is what has really stood out to me on this trip. Tonight he saw time guarding Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Joel Anthony. He’s been asked to defend multiple positions with all of the injury issues — and while the results haven’t always been great (both Bron and Wade made light work of him), his willingness to be versatile on that end has been an asset for this team, and was for them again tonight for much of the first three quarters.

Both Steve Nash and Dwight Howard had good shooting performances (3-5 for Nash, 6-9 for Howard) and both recorded 15 points. When he got the ball, Howard was really good a moving fronting defenders up the line and creating space for entry passes. He was a little off to start the game, but got in a groove in the middle quarters finishing around the rim and hitting his free throws. The team collectively shot well from the field. 50 percent overall, 58 percent from three. They were clean with their ball security, at least through three quarters. Heading into the fourth, the Heat only had seven takeaways. However, the Lakers ended with 14 turnovers on the night — and the last seven took scoring opportunities away from a team that desperately needed them. I’ve detailed the Lakers turnovers in the fourth and took a look at what resulted from them below.


10:18 – Steve Blake and Dwight Howard run a 1-5 P&R. After slipping the screen, Howard receives a pass from Blake and is immediately double teamed. Instead of kicking out and reposting, Howard drives baseline, and spins back toward to middle. As Howard completes his spin, LeBron James reaches in and rips the ball out of Howards hands, begins to fly down the court and is fouled by Steve Blake. Dwyane Wade would hit a jump shot on the ensuing possession. 82-78, Heat.

9:52 – On the Lakers next possession, the set gets disrupted at the top of the key with Norris Cole harassing Steve Blake. Blake eventually gets the ball into Howard on the right block who tries to throw a pass along the baseline. It goes out of bounds. Heat ball. They don’t score, but it’s the 2nd Howard turnover in back-to-back possessions. 82-78, Heat.

7:58 – The Lakers go to their Horns set with Earl Clark and Dwight Howard at the elbows. Steve Blake brings the ball up and receives a screen from Howard. After setting the screen, Howard rolls while Blake swings the ball to Clark who has popped to the top of the perimeter. Howard initially has great position on Chris Bosh, who had been fronting Howard all game. Recognizing where the ball was going, Dwyane Wade comes over from the back side and disrupts the entry pass and recovers the loose ball. Wade misses a jump shot on the other end, but more importantly, the Lakers miss another opportunity to score.

6:15 – Kobe gets the ball on the left wing, isolated against Ray Allen. Kobe faces up, swings through and drives baseline. Chris Bosh helps off of Howard and keeps Kobe from getting a shot up. Kobe tries to feed Howard, but Dwyane Wade steps in, knocks the ball away and saves it before going out of bounds to Norris Cole. Cole pushes the ball up the floor with LeBron James trailing and only Steve Nash back (which has been a trend on this Grammy trip). Cole lobs the ball up for Bron who catches it and obliterates the rim. 91-84, Heat. Their largest lead of the game up until that point.

5:49 – Kobe is in a similar situation in which he’s isolated on the left wing with Ray Allen defending him. He spins and drives baseline and has to pass the ball when Norris Cole slides over to help. Kobe gets in the air to make the pass, which is knocked down by LeBron James. Ray Allen would miss a three-pointer on the ensuing possession, but it’s two turnovers by Kobe on consecutive possessions instead of shot attempts — which is devastating when you’re down by seven against a better team.

3:36 – Steve Nash misguided entry pass is picked off by LeBron James who takes it the length of the court and obliterates the rim. 97-88, Heat.

2:34 – Steve Nash brings the ball up, and hits Kobe on the left wing after Howard sets a pin down screen for him. Howard rolls immediately after the screen and is wide open. However, Kobe isn’t able to make the pass over the top with a hard double from both Wade (defending Kobe) and Bosh (defending Howard). Instead, Kobe tries to get the ball to him with a behind-the-back pass which was picked off by a lurking Shane Battier. Both Kobe and Nash had been forced into making behind-the-back passes out of double teams early in the 1st quarter. I tweeted that it would be something that could potentially come back to haunt them, it did. Battier would go on to miss a 3-point attempt on the other end, but again, it was more about the lost possession rather than the result of it.


Overall, it was one of the Lakers better played basketball games of the season. Heading into that fourth quarter, the Lakers had been going blow-for-blow with the defending champions. Unfortunately, to beat a team like the Miami Heat, you can’t just engage in a slugfest, you need a more calculated approach. The better team usually prevails in closely contested battles, and that’s what ended up happening today. The Lakers could have been better on the boards, they could have gotten to a few more loose balls, they could have rotated a bit better on the defensive end — but there was no underling flaw that the Lakers had last night outside not being as good as the Heat. The Grammy trip is over and will head back to Los Angeles for some home cooking and a home game against the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night.

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.