Lakers 101, Bobcats 100 (Final)
This is what happens when you have a team on a double-digit losing streak and another team looking for a double dose of self-esteem.
Scrambling, frantic basketball with moments of brilliance and longer stretches of ineffectiveness. The Lakers clung to a late lead and barely held on against the struggling Bobcats in a roller-coaster outing on Tuesday night at Staples Center.
It was the Lakers’ third straight victory, the first time they’ve managed to put that modest a string together in a month. The Bobcats, who have now lost 12 consecutive games, had three cracks at winning it in the final 21 seconds, the best opportunity coming from Gerald Henderson, who missed a layup.
Both teams had double-digit leads and managed to lose them.
“We finally got our act together and started playing some defense,” said the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant in his TV interview on the court.
He scored 30 points and added six rebounds and seven assists and it was his seventh straight game with 30 or more points. Pau Gasol, returning after missing eight games because of tendinitis in both of his knees, had 10 points and nine rebounds in 29 minutes of action.
Dwight Howard had a double-double, scoring 16 points and adding 18 rebounds. Metta World Peace, coming off the bench, scored 17 points and had four steals and seven rebounds. In all, the Lakers had five players scoring in double figures. Reserve Jodie Meeks hit five three-pointers, finishing with 17 points.
Charlotte, which went 6-for-24 in the fourth quarter, was led by Kemba Walker (28 points) and former Laker Ramon Sessions, who had 20 points coming off the bench.
Bobcats 84, Lakers 77 (end of third quarter)
Dazed and confused.
The low point came when Ramon Sessions drove the lane for an uncontested layup to give Charlotte a 78-60 lead with 6:07 remaining in the quarter. Then the Laker fans gave their verdict – a loud chorus of boos.
If anything, the booing triggered yet another change in momentum. The Lakers gradually chipped away at the Bobcats lead, going on an 8-0 run to cut the margin to 10 points. They finished the third merely trailing by seven.
Charlotte slowed down the stretch, scoring just four points in the final five minutes.
Before that fade, Sessions and Kemba Walker were doing most of the damage, combining for 39 points. Walker was 10-for-19 for 24 points and had seven assists and five rebounds.
Kobe Bryant, leading the Lakers with 20 points, had five points in the third quarter. Dwight Howard’s line: 16 points and 17 rebounds.
Bobcats 58, Lakers 53 (halftime)
If you blinked, the Lakers’ lead disappeared.
Or something like that.
What was once an 11-point lead by the Lakers turned into a mad scramble with Charlotte wrapping up the half on a 21-7 run. Transition defense for the Lakers seemed to be an afterthought if it was a thought at all.
One of the key catalysts for the Bobcats happened to be former Lakers guard Ramon Sessions, coming off the bench shooting four-for-seven for 13 points.
For the Lakers, Kobe Bryant had 15 points, and Dwight Howard already had a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
And the 58 points for the Bobcats? It was their season-high for points scored in the half.
Lakers 27, Charlotte 25 (end of first)
Kobe Bryant, who had 10 points in the first quarter, kept it within range until his teammates stirred to life and some of the rust vanished for Pau Gasol. The Lakers had trailed by eight points but finished the quarter on a 12-4 run.
Not only did Gasol return after an eight-game absence, there were other selective and new-look wrinkles to the Lakers.
Devin Ebanks started at small forward, meaning Metta World Peace came off the bench.
Still, the Lakers, who were trying to win three straight games for the first time in about a month, did not get off to the start they wanted against the lowly Bobcats, falling behind 12-5 early on as Charlotte was fueled by a 7-0 run.
Gasol and Ebanks started by going a combined 1-7 - Gasol missed his first three shots from the field – before coming out for World Peace and Jodie Meeks just 4:49 into the game.
Gasol quickly returned, giving Dwight Howard a break and seemed to find his legs and touch. His first-quarter number: Five points, five rebounds and three blocked shots. On top of all that, Howard hit his first three free throws before missing the fourth.