The Los Angeles Lakers traveled to the nation’s capital for tonight’s game following a very disappointing loss to the Detroit Pistons in overtime. The Lakers came into their game versus the Washington Wizards at 3-1 since the All-Star break, and could not afford to lose to another non-contending team.
Both teams started the game off fairly slow, and it took some time for the squads to find their offensive groove. The Lakers were finding shots in the paint, but they were still having trouble converting near the basket. On the other end, the Wizards’ shooting woes continued and they too could not pass the Lakers’ bigs for a score. At the 9:18 mark of the opening quarter, the Lakers and Wizards combined for just eight points and were knotted up at 4-4.
The scoring picked up as the quarter went on, and once again, the Lakers’ seven-footers Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum carried the team in the early going. However, the Wizards matched the Lakers’ every move, and just like the Pistons from last night, the young team was not backing down from their veteran opponents. At the 6:35 point of the first quarter, the Lakers held a mere 14-11 lead.
Still, the Lakers went away from feeding the ball to their big men and insisted on shooting perimeter shots instead. The Lakers had success and reliable offense when the front-court had the ball, but when the guards began to throw up shots, the Wizards remained in striking distance. With 3:30 left to play in the period, the Lakers were up just one, 18-17, and were allowing the Wizards to hang around.
Kobe Bryant closed the quarter out extremely well and single-handedly extended the Lakers’ lead. Bryant took advantage of the Wizards’ defenders and scored from nearly every spot on the court. After 12 minutes of play, the Lakers held a 29-21 lead, and Kobe Bryant led the way with 14 points.
The Lakers maintained their lead in the early portion of the quarter despite the fact that the Wizards made a diminutive run in the opening minutes. Kobe Bryant, who was the catalyst to the Lakers’ run in the first quarter, was on the bench for his rest, but the team did not lose a beat. Rookie Andrew Goudelock played well in his first action of the game and his quick five points off the bench gave the Lakers a 37-27 lead with 9:00 left in the half.
The Lakers’ reserves continued to play well with the starters off the floor and Bynum and Goudelock were running the offense well. For a second consecutive night, the second unit outplayed the opposition and gave the Lakers a spark. The guards were shooting the ball well from the perimeter and the big men were doing their best to contain the Wizards. At the 5:41 mark of the second quarter, the Lakers held a 46-35 lead.
The Lakers’ offense was clicking on all cylinders and Kobe Bryant continued his offensive stride. Bryant was once again hitting on his shots and was also finding his teammates for open shots on the floor. With 2:16 left to go in the half, the Lakers held a 55-40 lead and Kobe Bryant had 17 points and three assists.
At the end of two quarters, the Lakers were up 64-49 and Kobe Bryant was thelead man with 20 points and three steals.
The Lakers kept their foot on the gas pedal in the opening part of the quarter and were not letting the Wizards gain any momentum. Washington was not able to put together any sort of run and they were essentially at the mercy of the Lakers. The big men continued to dominate the paint and the young Wizards team was having trouble finding ways to score, at the 8:22 mark of the period, the Lakers had a 73-53 lead.
The entire Lakers lineup was having success on the floor and the collective team effort allowed the team to maintain a 20-point lead, 79-59, with 6:05 remaining in the quarter. Everyone from Bryant to Derek Fisher were having their way with the Wizards and it was just an overall dominating performance by the squad. Fisher, who usually does not have nice offensive game, scored nine points and dished out three assists with nearly a quarter and a half remaining in the game.
The Wizards went on a small run which put some life into the team and the crowd slowly started to get back into the game. Washington was getting into the open court and were playing to the Lakers’ weaknesses which helped them put a dent into the deficit. With just 3:10 left to play in the quarter, the Lakers held a 80-67 advantage.
The Lakers closed out the third period horribly and they allowed the Wizards to get themselves back into the game. Just like last night, the Lakers opened up a large lead only to let the opponent back into the game due to complacent play. The second unit had performed well when they were on the floor before, but this time with Kobe resting, the Wizards took advantage and got themselves in striking distance.
The Wizards ended the period on an 11-0 run and that brought the Lakers’ lead down to two, 83-81. Washington shot over 60 percent in the period and outscored the Lakers 32-19 in the 12 minutes.
The Wizards opened the period with two three-pointers by Roger Mason Jr. and that allowed the team to open up a 87-83 lead. Washington was able to carry the momentum over to the fourth quarter and was clicking on the offensive end.
The Lakers were no longer attacking the basket and that resulted in poor offensive possessions. Kobe Bryant went cold from the field and that took the Lakers away from the plan that got them the lead. Los Angeles was dominate when it attacked the basket, but when it settled for outside jumpers, everything fell apart. With 8:49 left to play in the game, the Wizards were ahead by two points, 89-87.
Los Angeles was struggling on both ends of the court and could not get anything going. The team could not get anything to go on the offensive end and they were having trouble stopping the Wizards on the other end. Washington was having its way with the Lakers and their impressive three-point shooting allowed them to cushion their advantage. With 4:49 remaining in the game, the Wizards were ahead 98-92.
The final four minutes of the game went back and forth and just like the Lakers’ game versus the Pistons, every possession carried a little more meaning. The Lakers put themselves in this position with their poor play late in the fourth quarter, and when the game was on the line, the Wizards were the ones who came up clutch. The Lakers could not make the big shots with the game on the line and the Wizards were the team that showed poise late in the game.
Los Angeles blew another lead to a sub-par team and tonight, the Washington Wizards came away with a surprising 106-101 win.
The Lakers will be back on the floor on Friday when they travel to Minnesota to play the Timberwolves at 5:00 p.m. PST.