Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports
That the Lakers won despite falling behind by 18 in the third to the Mistake By the Great MJ aka the Charlotte Bobcats says they are improving. It doesn’t say much that the Lake Show had to hold on by the skin of their teeth to beat a team playing the worst ball in the league at the moment. This 101-100 victory was as much gut check as it was gut punch.
To be sure a better team would have beaten the Lakers tonight despite a very competitive effort. Overall you can’t say this all-too-close contest was the result of another indifferent Mike D’Antoni dandy. Metta World Peace lit a fire in his first stint off the bench, reverting to his original role under Mike Brown as 6th man. MWP’s defensive intensity was on display every time he touched the court. That moved proved a stroke of genius by D’Antoni.
Of course the reason why Metta made his 6th man debut was to make way for the return of Pau Gasol. The Spaniard got 29 minutes of burn in his return and while his presence was welcomed it did little for L.A.’s defensive inefficiencies.
Once again a duo of quick guards killed the Lake Show as Kemba Walker and one-time Laker Ramon Sessions sliced through the Purple and Gold like a sushi knife through yellowtail. Those two combined for a sick 48 points and 13 dimes.
Mix in 19 from Gerald Henderson including two in emphatic Blake Griffin-esque fashion and the Bobcats were primed to pull off another upset in Staples. We’ve seen Charlotte own the Lakers on their floor before. History looked fated to repeat itself again.
Then one Kobe Bryant put his fingerprints all over the game.
KB24 came to life in the clutch. Mamba made another entry into his legendary book on killing the opposition slowly. Almost indicative of the team’s effort as a whole, Kobe didn’t really get rolling until his back was pushed to the wall. On the night Bryant did work with 30 (in a win, again), 6 boards and 7 dimes.
Needing a lift late Bryant went into overdrive sinking some tough shots while also dishing out well-timed dimes. Jodie Meeks continues to benefit from the D’Antoni system as he dropped 17 off the bench a lot of which are just a result of spotting up when Kobe drives.
But let’s just not make mention of how this one ended. We’ll try and forget that Kobe forced a shot that gave the Bobcats the final possession. We’ll also act as if the 18 million second chance attempts Charlotte got in their final possession yet never found the bottom of the hoop ever occurred either.
Nope. A win is a win. This is the third straight for the Lakers. They’re actually in a rhythm of sorts. And even though this one was a good two minutes from getting away from L.A. there was undoubtedly a palpable effort given.
It’s going to take time. We keep hearing that. We’re seeing better results but many of those same mistakes are still there. As the winning formula comes into focus the only question is will it be too little to late. Tonight it very nearly was.