That’s the run the Lakers went on to close out the Hornets over the last 6:46 of the game. The Lakers hit 7 of their last 10 shots while the Hornets missed all 12 of their attempts and committed 5 turnovers.
That’s the final 4th quarter tally, a combination of fantastic Laker basketball and an incredible collapse from the Hornets that left everyone a bit stunned at what they were watching.
The Lakers really had no right winning this game. Early on, they looked like they were playing in quicksand defensively and forgot how to operate their offense on the other end. The played the part of the “physically and mentally tired team on the 2nd night of a back to back” part to a tee, leaving everyone more than a bit frustrated.
At the end of the 1st quarter they were lucky to be tied, but by the end of the 2nd their luck ran out as they trailed by 19. At one point in the 3rd quarter they trailed by 25. They were dead in the water and the Hornets were picking away at their carcass with made jumpers, savvy drives, and excellent defense.
But then, at the start of the 4th quarter, things just started to click as the Lakers turned up their energy and aggression on both sides of the ball.
Offensively, that meant a heavy dose of Kobe. He started the quarter with a drive for a short jumper plus the foul. On the next possession he’d hit another short jumper. Kobe then went into passing mode, setting up one of Meeks four three pointers in the period and a dunk by Dwight. Then it was another assist to Meeks. Then a long jumper of his own. And then a dunk. A look up at the scoreboard showed that the Lakers only trailed by 5. They were back in it. Sandwiched between two missed jumpers by Ron, Kobe got a lay up. Then he hit a fadeaway. Lakers lead by 2. Then a dunk and two more FT’s to ice the game.
He’d end the quarter with 18 points on 7-8 shooting. He’d end the game with 42 points and 12 assists. He’d leave the court with his arms raised like a prize fighter who just survived a pounding in the early rounds only to deliver the knockout blow to the head after a bunch of punishing body blows.
Kobe didn’t win this game alone, though. What #24 was to the offense, Dwight Howard was to the defense.
In what was probably his best defensive game of the year, Howard was a monster in the final quarter. He walled off penetration, slid his feet to create proper angles, and protected the rim with the ferocity that marked his DPOY campaigns. Oh, and he did it all while playing with 4 (and later in the period, 5) fouls the entire time. His block on Robin Lopez essentially clinched the game for the Lakers, taking away their chance to tie and setting up the inbounds play that led to Kobe’s break away dunk on an inbounds play where words can’t really describe how badly the Hornets defended.
This is the type of win was sorely needed, but also one that can inspire belief in a group that they can accomplish anything with the right amount of focus, commitment, and urgency. Should they have ever been down by so much to the Hornets? Probably not. Do they need to find ways to defend in isolation and in the P&R better for longer stretches? Of course they do. But, in the 4th quarter, they regrouped and fought as hard as they could and pulled out the most improbable win. They had no business winning this game.
But Dwight and Kobe did what they both do best down the stretch and, maybe for the first time this season, we got a glimpse of both players at near peak powers controlling both sides of the floor the way they have so often for their entire careers. And man, was it a sight to see.