After a disappointing loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night, the Lakers were back in action Wednesday in New Orleans. This was a game the Lakers needed to win to keep their playoff hopes alive. Entering the game 30-31, the team could no longer afford to lose games against sub-.500 teams if they had a realistic shot of reaching the postseason.
Against teams that were below .500, the Lakers were averaging 103.6 points a game entering Wednesday night’s action, so they were looking to keep the offense flowing against the soon-to-be Pelicans.
Coming into the game the Lakers were dealing with several injuries – Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace all sustained injuries against the Thunder. While they were game-time decisions, all ended up suiting up for L.A. on Wednesday.
It was a sloppy start for the Lakers in New Orleans. After Metta World Peace hit a three-pointer to start the game, things got remarkably ugly. The team was struggling defensively and couldn’t find any rhythm on the offensive end. Luckily for the Lakers, New Orleans couldn’t do much better. Still, some bad defense and the inability to go over a screen left Roger Mason open for several jump shots.
The Hornets ran out on a 9-1 run that gave them a four point lead in the first before Jodie Meeks finally hit a triple to stop the bleeding. Despite the ugly start, the Lakers did see a decent amount of activity from Dwight Howard. Even though Dwight was injured heading into the game, he still had several early dunks and seemed to have more lift than we have seen in previous games.
When Dwight Howard went to the bench with three minutes to go in the quarter the Hornets immediately started a layup line. New Orleans pushed out in front with a six point lead. Six turnovers from Los Angeles didn’t help matters much, but two late triples from Kobe allowed the Lakers to tie up the game at the end of the first, 28-28.
Things got tricky for the Lakers in the second quarter when Dwight Howard picked up his third personal foul with 10:05 remaining in the half. This proved costly for the Lakers, who needed his defense inside. Upon Howard’s exit, New Orleans quickly built their biggest lead of the half, prompting a Mike D’Antoni timeout.’
Things got worse for the Lakers, as New Orleans immediately exploded offensive. The worst home team in the NBA ran all over the Lakers in the first half, building a 25-point lead at one point in the second quarter. Nothing was working for Los Angeles, who even tried subbing in Robert Sacre at one point hoping to find something that would work.
The Lakers cut into the lead a little bit before the half but were still looking at an enormous uphill climb in the final 24 minutes. At the break, New Orleans led the Lakers 67-48.
Heading into the third the Lakers knew they needed to cut the deficit to something manageable before the fourth. Unfortunately, that didn’t seem to be a realistic expectation. The problem for the Lakers continued to be the defense, which let them down continuously in the third. L.A. managed to make a few nice runs, but couldn’t slow down the Hornets at all on the defensive end. For a team that couldn’t afford to trade baskets with their opponent, the Lakers seemed far too content to do just that.
To make matters worse for the Lakers, they found out the Utah Jazz fell to the Cleveland Cavaliers earlier in the evening, giving them an opportunity to gain ground in the standings. But their inept defensive capabilities seemed to be preventing that.
The end of the third looked far too similar to the first half, as the Lakers were unable to get the game into what would appear to be a manageable state. To make matters worse for the Lakers, the Hornets exceeded their home scoring average (92.7) in just three quarters against the putrid L.A. defense. With 12 minutes left in the game, Los Angeles trailed the Hornets 93-75.
For a brief minute in the fourth the Lakers looked like they might have a chance to make a comeback in the fourth. Then, in typical Laker fashion, their defense saw it slip away. Los Angeles got several big plays on the offensive end from Kobe, but the broken record continued. The Lakers just couldn’t find a way to stop the Hornets on the defensive end, and because of that they weren’t really able to get back into the game.
Still, with just five minutes left in the game the Lakers finally got things going. They got a few calls to go their way on the defensive end, and some three-pointers from Jodie Meeks and Bryant had the Lakers within single digits for the first time in the second half. Even with the fact that the team played relatively dismal basketball for the first three and a half quarters, the will of Bryant brought them all the way back.
Bryant had quite a bit of help from Jodie Meeks in the fourth, too, who hit three enormous shots from downtown. Kobe finally got the Lakers back even with the Hornets with 1:29 left in the 4th, tying the game 102-102.
It was an amazing comeback, and rivaled the 20-point comeback against the Bobcats in Charlotte earlier this season. The Lakers managed to climb all the way back through great adversity, albeit self-created adversity, and through the will of Bryant, who once again proved he’s willing to kill himself on the court for a victory. The final shot at the end, the one that gave the Lakers their final lead, was vintage Bryant. A fadeaway jumper from the elbow, reminiscent of the one to beat the Suns in the playoffs back in 2006.
It was an amazing comeback, and while you might argue that the Lakers never should have been down that much in the first place, it was a great effort on both ends of the floor to come back and get the victory. One final breakaway dunk from Kobe sealed the deal, and the comeback, and a 108-102 victory. The Lakers finished the game on a 20-0 run, completing an amazing comeback.