Lakers Nation is still on a bit of a high after the Lakers made a phenomenal 25-point comeback last night against the New Orleans Hornets. Even though the game wasn’t technically a must-win, there was a feeling that the Lakers needed to leave New Orleans with a victory. This sentiment had more meaning when the Utah Jazz fell to the Cleveland Cavaliers while the Lakers were about to begin the second half.
While the Lakers can rely on Kobe Bryant to led them into battle, to make such a comeback, the Lakers would need to do it as a team. Further, they need their two superstars, Kobe and Dwight Howard, to be on the same page. Kobe and Dwight have struggled with getting on the same page throughout the year.
However, last night, they were right there together. As an effect, the Kobe/Dwight duo led that team into the best comeback the Lakers have seen in a decade. According to Dave McMenamin on ESPNLA, Kobe had the following to say about the last night’s showcase of the Lakers’ one-two punch:
“We really complemented each other extremely well and played to each other’s strengths,” Bryant said after finishing with 42 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds. “I directed us offensively tonight, and he did his thing defensively.”
Dwight’s defense down the stretch was beautiful to watch, as he made key plays in the paint that allowed the Lakers to make necessary stops. Dwight was in foul trouble, which caused him to sit for much of the first half. Dwight recalled:
“Just from watching on the bench, they were in the paint a lot. They were hitting 3s. They were just doing whatever they wanted,” Howard said. “In the second half, I just tried to be a presence on the inside.”
As I stated earlier, the comeback would require a team effort. The Kobe/Dwight two-man game, which worked very successfully last night, allowed their teammates to get open looks. Enter Jodie Meeks and his 19 crucial points. Kobe shared:
“Honestly, I was thinking I need to bring my teammates along with me,” Bryant said. “So I just kept telling myself at halftime, ‘I got to bring them with me.’ … Because I was getting to the rim at the end of the first half and I knew I could score any time I wanted to, but I said, ‘I got to bring them along with me.’ I got to force the game upon them and hope that turns the tide.”
While Meeks’ contribution on both ends of the floor were essential to the comeback, the display of excellence we saw out of Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard and the two-man game (i.e. high screen plays) were a focal point that fans will remember last night. Kobe said the following of Dwight:
“He brought himself along. I didn’t do anything. That’s a decision he made to say, ‘I’m going to dominate the game on this end of the floor and there’s nothing anybody is going to be able to do about it.’ That’s a choice he made.”
Finally, the following is what each had to say about each other and their improved relationship:
“Said Howard: ‘It shows we’re coming together and we’re not letting situations on the outside affect us. We’re fighting through this and we got to do it together. Everybody in this locker room has got to believe.'”
“Said Bryant, from the opposite end of the locker room: ‘I’m just proud of how we did it together. That’s the most important thing.'”
The Lakers needed to pull out a victory last night to make up some ground in the standings. Both the Utah Jazz and the Houston Rockets lost last night, meaning the Lakers are now one and a half games out of the eighth spot and two games out of the seventh spot in the West.
To make that final push, the entire team needs to continue to be on the same page, particularly Kobe and Dwight. The Lakers are also back to a .500 record, and return to Los Angeles to take on the Toronto Raptors on Friday.