What exactly is it about the Bobcats that’s made them the only other team not named “Boston” to have a winning record against the Lakers?
Does L.A. simply overlook them more than they do other troubled franchises? Do the Bobcats, like Portland and Utah, just save their top level of effort for the purple and gold?
Whatever “it” is, it happened again on Tuesday night in Charlotte (with Michael Jordan sitting courtside), as L.A. went down to the wire with the plucky ‘Cats, who were fighting for the East’s 8th playoff spot in front of the largest crowd in the four years of Time Warner Cable Arena’s four-year existence.
After a rather sluggish first three quarters, the intensity picked up for both teams in the fourth quarter, with the Bobcats holding a 68-64 edge thanks to a 15-4 run to close the third. Charlotte increased that lead to 10 with 7:46 remaining, only to see the Lakers’ starters reel off eight straight points thanks to some suffocating defense.
Just as the flow seemed to be going L.A.’s way, the Bobcats responded with an 11-0 run of their own to seal their season sweep of the Lakers. Funny how that works out against the orange-clad franchise, huh?
It didn’t help the Lakers that they were awarded only six free throws for the entire game, two of which came on technical fouls, while Charlotte attempted 22 foul shots.
“It’s a road game,” quipped Phil Jackson, who was similarly brief regarding L.A.’s offensive struggles, saying that his team “Couldn’t hit shots.”
Particularly Kobe Bryant, who struggled to get back into an offensive rhythm for L.A. in hitting only 7-of-21 through three quarters and 11-of-28 overall for his 25 points. Lamar Odom went for 18 and nine through three, but scored just a bucket and failed to grab a rebound in the fourth, while Pau Gasol was sluggish in an 8-for-17 performance. L.A. continued to get little production from its bench, which scored 11 points (four in the final minute) on 5-of-22 shooting.
Gerald Wallace had 21 points, 13 rebounds and four assists to pace the Bobcats, who saw six players reach double figures.
Meanwhile, Cleveland emerged from a home battle with Detroit with a win to go three games up on the Lakers with eight to play in the race for the NBA’s best record. Surely, the Lakers are ready to be done with the regular season battles in road arenas, and return to the friendly confines of STAPLES to host their first-round series.
But not so fast. First, L.A. closes out its seven-game trip with a Wednesday-night contest in Milwaukee.
Until then, a few numbers.
Second half points for Lamar Odom, who was terrific in the first half with 14 points, 6-of-11 shooting.
Free throws attempted by the Lakers, who absolutely couldn’t buy a foul.
Assists from Pau Gasol to lead the Lakers, though he struggled to an 8-for-17 performance from the field.
Bench points for the Lakers, six of which came from Luke Walton before garbage time hoops from Vujacic and Brown.
Shots missed by Kobe Bryant.
Offensive rebounds for the Lakers in the one category dominated by L.A., since Charlotte managed just six boards on that end. Also the number of Bobcats’ turnovers, which kept L.A. in the game despite their poor shooting.
L.A.’s shooting percentage entering the fourth quarter, continuing the team’s poor to quite poor performance from the field of late.