Entering the 2007-08 season, the Los Angeles Lakers were considered one of the budding contenders in the Western Conference. Although they had a Kobe Bryant in his prime, the supporting cast around him was missing a key piece for a championship run. However, expectations changed tremendously when the team acquired Pau Gasol.
Gasol provided an All-Star presence to a lineup that was desperately missing another playmaker. Not only could Gasol dominant in the paint, but he also was one of the elite passing big men in the NBA. On Feb. 11, 2008, fans were provided a brief glimpse into the future of the organization.
The Lakers were knee-deep in a lengthy road trip in February, with a 5-2 record up to that point. Gasol was entering just his fifth game with the organization, as they faced off against the Charlotte Bobcats.
These two teams had quite the clashes throughout the 2000s, especially coming off their last meeting in Charlotte that ended in a triple-overtime loss for Los Angeles.
The Lakers received a jolt of optimism in Gasol, while the reeling Bobcats got the news that star Gerald Wallace was out with a lingering injury. Bryant and Gasol combined to knock down their first 11 shots of the game.
However, Charlotte was able to capitalize in the open court, with the Lakers committing 10 first-half turnovers. They still managed to hold a 55-44 lead at halftime.
The Bobcats, in the midst of a six-game losing streak, had to rely on the presence of guard Raymond Felton (29 points) and center Nazr Mohammed (22 points) for their offense. Jason Richardson was thrust into attack mode for his team, but finished the contest shooting a dismal 4-for-14 from the field.
Coming out of halftime, the Bobcats showed signs of life and outscored the Lakers by three points in the third quarter. In fact, they put together a run in the fourth that saw the Lakers lead dwindle down to just three before Bryant took matters into his own hands.
His two jump shots, along with a no-look pass for a Lamar Odom dunk, pushed the lead up to 11 with just a minute remaining. From there, the Lakers would close the door on a 106-97 victory, improving their road trip record to 6-2.
Bryant and Gasol showed a certain intellectual connection in just their fifth game together. Gasol, who was dealing with a cold before the game, stepped up and contributed 26 points on 9-for-11 shooting, along with six assists, six rebounds and two blocks.
It was his second-highest scoring total since joining his new team, a sign of the good things to come as Gasol got more acclimated with Phil Jackson’s triangle offense. Bryant finished with 31 points, four assists, four steals, and two blocks, while going 9-for-17 from the field.
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