With one last home game before heading out on the longest road trip of the season, the Lakers found themselves up against the Charlotte Bobcats. While the Bobcats are a team that has given them plenty of trouble in the past, they entered Tuesday’s game on an eight-game losing streak, and had the worst record in the NBA.
The Lakers, fresh off a narrow victory in Minnesota on Sunday, were looking to build a little momentum before heading east. Due to the lockout this was the only scheduled game between the two teams during the regular season.
The Lakers started the game with Metta World Peace in the starting lineup for the second consecutive game after spending most of the season coming off the bench. The Lakers were looking to start strong offensively, specifically Kobe Bryant. The Lakers’ captain came out shooting, connecting on two quick three-point shots to give the Lakers an early lead.
In the first quarter the Lakers rode the hot shooting of Bryant to an early lead. After struggling on offense for the last few games, Bryant started shooting early on Tuesday and he was connecting. Bryant scored 18 of the first 26 Lakers points, putting them on top of Charlotte early.
Bryant ended up taking a seat for the last 1:34 of the quarter after outscoring the Bobcats by himself while he was on the floor. At the end of the first quarter the Lakers found themselves with a somewhat comfortable lead, 30-18.
With Bryant on the bench to start the second quarter the Lakers were forced to look elsewhere for some offense. The reserves, as well as center Andrew Bynum, still managed to play well against the Bobcat back-ups. One of the reasons for their success was their determination to run the offense through Bynum. On multiple plays the Lakers established Bynum in the paint, and it paid off.
Bynum played under control, reading the defense and acting accordingly. On one play he dished out to rookie guard Andrew Goudelock for a three-point basket, on another one he went to the basket and got an easy dunk. By running the offense through Bynum the reserves were able to maintain their lead and give Bryant and Pau Gasol a lengthy rest.
Once Bryant did check back into the game he picked up right where he left off. He continued shooting the ball and continued making them. This was especially favorable for the Lakers because all of his shots were coming within the offense. Bryant, who has a tendency to force shots he shouldn’t, was playing within rhythm in the first half.
Towards the end of the half the Lakers got some help from their big men. Both Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol chipped in as the second quarter neared its end, combining for 22 points. At the end of the first half the Lakers were leading Charlotte 60-36.
After halftime the Lakers were looking to come out and put the Bobcats away and coast to an easy victory. However, that has been something they have been unable to do all season. The Lakers began looking lackadaisical and complacent, and the Bobcats weren’t about to hand L.A. the victory.
Turnovers and bad shots allowed the Bobcats to get back into the game, and the 26-point lead was suddenly cut in half in the third quarter. This was eerily similar to what the team did Sunday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Lakers had a lack of focus and intensity in the third quarter, and Charlotte was able to take advantage.
Still, despite the fact that the Lakers played rather uninspiring basketball during the third quarter, they were able to have a fairly comfortable lead heading into the final quarter. Regardless, if the Lakers were going to come out and win the game in a relatively easy fashion, they were going to need to show more heart and desire in the final 12 minutes.
Entering the final quarter with a 15 point lead the Lakers were looking to cruise into their road trip with an easy victory. But things started slow once again in the final quarter for Los Angeles with Bryant and Gasol on the bench.
To make things worse for the Lakers, the players that were on the floor were taking bad shots. A lack of ball rotation began to haunt the Lakers more and more, as players were standing around. Ultimately they were forced into taking poor shots from outside due to a depleted shot clock.
After Charlotte was able to cut the lead to just 11 points several minutes into the fourth, L.A.’s bench put things back into cruise control. The team finally showcased a little ball movement that resulted in a three-point basket from Troy Murphy. On the next possession the Lakers struck from downtown again, this time it was rookie Andrew Goudelock. To complete the three-point three-peat, Jason Kapono sunk one of his own. The rapidly dwindling lead was almost instantly pushed back up over 20 points.
The lead, which at one point looked to be in severe jeopardy, was once again an inflated fat cat. The Lakers rode some hot three-point shooting in the final quarter to earn that easy win that was in question earlier in the quarter. The Lakers were able to let Bryant and Gasol sit out the entire fourth quarter, allowing them to rest for the upcoming road trip.
By the time the game ended the Lakers had connected on a season-high 12 three-point baskets, and defeated the Charlotte Bobcats 106-73.