Lakers 89, Bobcats 109: Feb. 14 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Sunday afternoon road contest against the Charlotte Bobcats, the sixth of a seven-game road trip, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Starters
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Bobcats: D.J. Augustin, S. Jackson, G. Wallace, B. Diaw, K. Brown

FIRST QUARTER
7:30 It hadn’t been so much sluggish starts, but sluggish games in general for the Lakers on the team’s last two trips to Charlotte, both losses, but in an 8-2 and then 10-4 start to this contest, L.A. was the more focused and effective team, with each starter not named Ron scoring a bucket.

0:22.0 OK, it was a bit premature to remove the “sluggish” tag in Charlotte, since the Lakers slowed considerably and allowed a 14-6 Bobcats run that allowed the home team to erase their early deficit and take a 24-22 lead into the second quarter. Gasol and Bynum had their pockets of success inside, scoring six points apiece, but the Lakers got away from running their offense effectively and were hurt at the other end.

SECOND QUARTER
8:22 Though Gasol thought he had the right to land, Bobcats backup big Eduardo Najera slid underneath and collapsed, drawing his second charge in the quarter and second of seven Lakers turnovers, off of which Charlotte had scored 10 points to help it lead 33-26.

3:00 It was more of the same for the bulk of the second, with the Lakers struggling to find energy, and committing two more turnovers that allowed the ‘Cats to take a 45-34 lead. Gasol managed to clean three consecutive defensive rebounds and convert free throws to temporarily stop the bleeding, but with Bryant being sick (missed shootaround with “aches” and such), Odom being uninvolved (two points, one rebound) and all the turnovers, it wasn’t a pretty half.

0:00 The Lakers did pull back a few points when Bryant hit a triple and Odom an open layup after a fortuitous bounce, chopping the lead from 11 to six entering halftime at 49-43.

THIRD QUARTER
11:40 Phil Jackson and his staff are always among the best at making halftime adjustments, and we saw one on the defensive end immediately as the Lakers went over some screens they’d previously chased around, ultimately resulting in a desperation three-point heave from Augustine that missed badly.

2:51 There were certain Lakers games particularly early in the season when Jackson would unhappily declare that the other team “wanted it more.” It’s actually not too surprising, since the Lakers are back-to-back champs and of course a win over such a team makes an opponent and its fans feel validated, and we were certainly seeing this occur in Charlotte. Using a 29-17 edge in the period, the ‘Cats took a 78-60 lead into the fourth quarter, getting a buzzer-beating three from Wallace for emphasis.

FOURTH QUARTER
10:50 The Lakers were literally called for five personal fouls in the first minute and 10 seconds of the fourth quarter, including two on Bryant, which gave him five. The ‘Cats used the foul line to push their lead to 87-66 even after two Kobe free throws gave him 16 points on just 6-for-18 shooting.

1:14 The game long over, Derrick Caracter got into garbage time action with consecutive buckets, including a big dunk in transition, and Luke Walton’s jumper looked smooth as Bryant promised last week. It was of course for naught, as Charlotte ended up with a 109-89 victory, their third straight beating of the defending champs in their arena. Stay tuned for postgame numbers:

POSTGAME NUMBERS
34 Combined points for little known Bobcats subs Nazr Mohammad and Gerald Henderson.

28 Charlotte’s biggest lead, acquired in the fourth quarter before L.A.’s subs trimmed off eight points.

27 Bench points for the Lakers, most of which came when the game was already over in the fourth quarter. Shannon Brown started the game 0-for-5, and Lamar Odom managed only nine points and four rebounds in 26 minutes. Kobe Bryant needed 20 shots to get his team-high 20 points, while Pau Gasol added 17 on 6-of-9 shooting, plus 10 rebounds and five assists, both team highs.

10 First half turnovers for the Lakers, the main ingredient in Charlotte’s 49-43 lead at the break.

9 Straight shots buried by the Bobcats to start the fourth quarter. As in, they didn’t miss once until