Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Tuesday evening home contest against Charlotte, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:
Lakers: Duhon, Bryant, Ebanks, Gasol and Howard
Bobcats: K. Walker, G. Henderson, M. Kidd-Gilchrist, B. Mullens, B. Biyombo
6:03 After a very slow start, the Lakers finally started to play once Jodie Meeks and Metta World Peace checked in off the bench, Bryant twice getting to the hoop for five straight points (one an and-1) to cut Charlotte’s lead to three at 16-13. They’d led by as many as eight as Devin Ebanks struggled in a starting role, hitting only 1 of 4 shots, while Gasol missed his first three attempts in his first game in two weeks.
4:26 The Lakers were down 21-15 when Gasol replaced Howard, to play center, and by quarters end L.A. had taken a 27-25 lead. The Spaniard did a bit of everything, scoring five points with five rebounds, three assists and three blocked shots. That’s the guy LAL fans have been spoiled by over the years, not the injured-looking one that struggled to 42 percent shooting.
10:10 With Howard’s tip-in, the run had reached 11-0, 7-0 to start the second, giving L.A. a 34-25 lead. Gasol continued to excel before getting a rest moments later, leading L.A. on a 19-4 spurt since he replaced Howard with 4:26 left in the first. With the Spaniard going to the bench, MWP moved back to power forward, Howard of course staying in the middle, as Kobe got some rest. Duhon, Morris and Meeks were in the back court.
0:22.1 Ready for the other extreme? A 21-6 Bobcats run came almost out of nowhere to produce a 58-51 lead for the visitors. Bryant hit a jumper to cut the margin to five going into halftime, and if you’re trying to give the Lakers an excuse, here’s one: the line ups were completely out of whack with so many guys in and out of action, and there was simply no familiarity on the court. Something that can’t really be confused: the Lakers weren’t really getting back in transition after missing wide open shots, and the young/quick ‘Cats took advantage, Ramon Sessions and Kemba Walker combining for 28 points, and pushing a 12-4 edge in fast break points.
8:47 Charlotte could not miss, from anywhere. Among the four straight shots they hit to start the third quarter, two were three-pointers, one in the corner after a busted play in which L.A. nearly had a steal. Meanwhile, L.A. hit just one of five shots, and suddenly the deficit was 71-57 (13-4 run to start the period) with the home fans booing.
3:08 The Bobcats’ lead went to as many as 18 before the Lakers finally got something going, their own 9-0 run chopping it back to nine at 80-71. Howard hit two free throws to reach 6 of 8 on the evening, and Gasol added 1 of 2, L.A. at 70 percent on the night (where they’d been in three straight games). They’d cut it still further in the final minute, two Bryant free throws making it an 84-77 game, the Lakers holding Charlotte to just four points in the final 5:21 of the period to put themselves well within striking distance.
8:56 It was all Lakers to start the fourth, suffocating defense on the perimeter continuing to hold the Bobcats scoreless (Darius Morris and Metta World Peace leading the way) while Morris and Jodie Meeks hit a pair of threes, allowing LAL an 89-84 lead when they’d trailed by as many as 18 at 80-62. Crazy game of runs.
5:36 With just 2.2 left on the shot clock and L.A. holding a one-point lead, Kobe buried a three-pointer in the corner, falling away, to make it 95-91, ending a streak of four straight points from the Bobcats. However, Charlotte would get the next two buckets, the second coming after Bryant forced a shot and missed on the other end, resulting in a 95-all tie with 2:36 to play.
1:26 Breaking the tie was a driving Bryant, who scored through a collection of ‘Cats at the rim to make it 97-95. Howard then cleared his 18th rebound on the next possession, and Kobe drained a deep jumper to put the Lakers up four. (The second Bryant shot gave him 30 points for the seventh consecutive game, a record for players 34 years and up in league history).
0:00 Charlotte cut the deficit to one on a Sessions and-1, and with Bryant’s miss on the other end, had a chance to win in the final seconds. The Bobcats came extreeeeeemely close to doing just that, as after Howard swatted Walker with five seconds left, a Gerald Henderson put-back attempted danced around the rim but wouldn’t stay down, and the Lakers survived to win 101-100. Up next is Golden State on Saturday; we’ll see you there.