Following a stretch of three straight losses since Kobe Bryant returned, the Lakers were in need of a win, badly. With another loss, the team had a high chance of going into a tailspin with all sorts of questions about Mike D’Antoni and Pau Gasol. It would not have been pretty. Thankfully, the Lakers were able to gut out a win — the first of the season for Kobe.
The game started out a bit like the last one. The team made an effort to get Gasol the ball in the post; however, it wasn’t the best idea. Again, Gasol struggled, shooting just 1-6 in the quarter. Kobe, on the other hand, came out aggressive. Hitting three of his four shots — including his first three of the season — Kobe led the team in scoring with eight at the end of the quarter. It wasn’t a pretty half for the Lakers; they shot just 35 percent from the field. At the end of the first quarter, the Lakers were down 22-23.
Going into the second quarter, there was hope that the Lakers bench could take a lead, but that wasn’t the case. The best bench in the league was struggling to get something going, partly because there wasn’t a point guard to control the offense. There was a lot of Nick Young dribbling, dribbling, and shooting, evidence by no field goals over a six minute stretch. That finally ended with a Shawne Williams three, and then a Shawne Williams free throw line jumper. With good free throw shooting and outside shooting, the Lakers were still in the game. An attacking Kobe helped give the Lakers a one point lead at the half. The Black Mamba had 13 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 turnovers at the break.
Much like the second quarter the Lakers struggled at the start of the quarter. Charlotte went on an 8-0 run, thanks to two Gasol turnovers and a Kobe air-ball in the first three possessions. The run was ended on a Gasol dunk, but the Lakers — mostly Gasol and Kobe — were turning the ball over way too much. Before one could blink, the Bobcats had their largest lead of the game at nine. However, Jordan Hill was starting to come alive. He grabbed three offensive rebounds, and made a couple baskets in the post. Soon, the lead was down to four, with the game going into the final 12 minutes.
For once, the Lakers came out nicely to start a quarter. With a Wes Johnson three to bring the lead within one, and then a Robert Sacre dunk off of a Pick-n-Roll with Xavier Henry, the Lakers grabbed the lead. The bench was playing well, forcing four turnovers. Kobe came in to play the rest of the quarter, and for the first time since his return showed us he can still hit big shots. A handful of “old Kobe” jumpers by the Black Mamba and a big-time clutch three by Swaggy P pulled the Lakers back into the game. Defensively, Gasol silenced the critics (for one night, at least), repeatedly shutting down Al Jefferson late, forcing an array of bad shots. After Bryant’s two freebies gave the Lakers the lead, Gasol’s two free throws pushed the lead to the eventual final score.
Kobe showed a good balance between looking for his own shot, and finding his teammates. He had 21 points, 7 rebounds, 8 assists, and 7 turnovers. The turnovers were a problem again, but he was able to shoot well. Gasol continued to struggle, shooting a lowly 33 percent from the floor. Nick Young tried to do what he could for the bench, scoring 13 points, but only making two of his ten shots.
The Lakers get a night off before heading to Atlanta to play the Hawks. The bench is going to have to step it up; 26 points from the #BenchMob isn’t going to cut it. Not only that, but Gasol is going to have to put some effort on the defensive end — Paul Millsap is no joke. It will be interesting to see how Kobe comes out in his third game in four nights. Hopefully the Lakers can start their first winning streak with Mr. Bryant in the lineup.