The Los Angeles Lakers miraculously rallied back against the Charlotte Bobcats tonight, prevailing 100-93 in the fifth game of their seven-game road trip. With 5:26 in the third, LA went down by 20 points on two Kemba Walker free throws. The team looked fried, getting microscopic production from their three remaining All-Stars in Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard and allowing the worst team in the league to look like its best. Reminiscent of their road games in Cleveland, Phoenix and Sacramento against the other NBA bottom feeders, the Lakers played down to their competition and were simply outhustled by a young team with something to prove against their star-studded opponents. The defensive effort was laughably pathetic, with Kobe mysteriously choosing to be neither a scorer or facilitator, failing to hit either 5 points or 5 assists with nearly half of the 3rd quarter gone. As awful as the Lakers looked last night against the Celtics, it seemed as if this blowout loss could very well be the the most disappointing loss in a season with twenty of them.
That all changed with an Earl Clark three-point play, as the forward continued to stave off a once-inevitable trip to Maccabi Tel Aviv for the 2014 season by providing the hobbled Lakers with steady production. The former Lousville Cardinal chipped in another double-double, with 17 points and 10 hard-earned boards, never stopping the hustle while the rest of the team was sapped for energy and motivation.
From there, Los Angeles went on an unreal 49-22 run, destroying the Bobcats in a way that you'd expect on paper, but wouldn't believe from experience. Bryant finished with 20 points, 7 rebounds and 8 assists, while Nash contributed with 17 points of his own, both helping to control the pace of the game, set up open shooters and put pressure on Charlotte's post defense. After a lackluster first half, Dwight seemed to feed off the energy that Clark, Kobe and Nash put in offensively, becoming reminiscent of the three-time Defensive Player of the Year we've heard so much about. Howard's activity was one of the primary reasons behind a 15 point 4th quarter from the Bobcats, whose guards eviscerated the Lakers for most of the game, with LA making Ramon Sessions, Gerald Henderson and Kemba Walker look like the second coming of Isiah and Dumars. As if tapped on the head by a wizard, LA suddenly started to defend the pick and roll, staying on shooters and defending passing lanes.
A little known fact around the NBA, but hauntingly clear to Lakers fans, the Show has had an extremely difficult time with the Cats in their short existence, only tonight bumping their lifetime record to 9-8 against the 2004 expansion franchise. LA hadn't won in Time Warner Cable Arena since 2008, which was the fifth game of Pau Gasol's fantastic Lakers career. Just to illustrate how long ago that was, Vladimir Radmanovic was a starter, Luke Walton played over 21 minutes, Sasha Vujacic and Jordan Farmar were in American basketball leagues and Jeff McInnis locked in a staggering 35 minutes for the Cats.
This game was a complete picture of who the Lakers are, have been and can be. Are they a team with an alarming lack of energy and post defense that can go down by 20 to the worst team in the league? Are they a team that can effortlessly rally back from a deep deficit in the third quarter on the drop of a dime? Are they a team that can stop one of the fastest squads in the league when so they feel the desire? Tonight's win was an inspiring win, a tantalizing vision of potential and a crushing portrait of the present. Just another day in the weirdest season in Lakers history.
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