-What do we say to death?
Game of Thrones
They did it again. Once again, the Los Angeles Lakers looked into the face of the premature death of their season and decided "Not today." For three straight quarters, the Lakers were dead. Dead for the game. Dead for the season. The Lakers simply cannot afford to throw away any more games against bad opponents, and they were throwing this game away. Non existent defense. An offense consisting entirely of (missed) outside shots. No energy. At the start of the fourth quarter, there was little improvement. They were a dead team walking.
With six minutes remaining, down fourteen points, it started happening. Not today. Jodie Meeks drains a three. Not today. Kobe Bryant drains one too. Not today. Dwight Howard blocks a shot. Not today. Metta forces a turnover. Not today Mamba hits a jumper to take the lead. NOT TODAY!!!!! DWIGHT, oh my freaking god, Dwight.
When Dwight Howard obliterated Robin Lopez's dunk attempt, the transformation was complete. The Lakers once again rose from the dead, just in nick of time, and so what small amount of hope we can have about a season in which desperate wins against bad teams are vital lives on. Tonight, it required that the Lakers score the last 20 points of the game, and that is what they did. They had help. In the final six minutes, New Orleans went cold (obviously). They turned the ball over four times. They missed layups and dunks. And they played perhaps the worst defensive possession in the history of basketball. Down two points, with 24 seconds to play, the New Orleans Hornets lined up in a defensive set to prepare to deny the Lakers the basketball. They were all in perfect position to make the inbounds pass as difficult as possible. There was just one problem.
They were defending the wrong basket.
Kobe Bryant released down court, Steve Blake got him the ball, and Kobe iced the game with the easiest dunk you will ever see. It was a stunning display of ineptitude at the highest level of professional basketball, and it was a perfect summation of what this game represented. The Los Angeles Lakers were a dead team walking, and then they weren't, but they didn't achieve the resurrection on their own. They had help. The Hornets saw the Lakers dying, and resuscitated them. The Lakers' hopes are once again alive, and thanks to a late collapse by the Utah Jazz, those hopes are stronger than ever.
The Los Angeles Lakers are not a very good team. Very good teams don't hover around the .500 mark after 75% of the season. Very good teams don't spend three quarters of a must win game in a coma. Very good teams don't give up 100 points in 42 minutes of basketball to a bad offensive team. But the Lakers are becoming a resilient team. Their horrid first 45 games led to many an early obituary being penned in their honor, but just when you think they've put themselves in a position from which they absolutely cannot recover, they find just enough to recover nonetheless. It's not something to hang a hat on, but it is something on which a fool's hope can be hanged.
If nothing else, the Lakers have proven that they will have to be killed. They can be wounded with ease. But actually landing that final, incapacitating blow? Good luck with that.
[Author's Note: It didn't fit directly into the narrative, but Kobe Bryant's masterful game must be more directly acknowledged. 42 points on 14-21 from the floor, 12 assists, and 7 rebounds. Simply spectacular. And Dwight Howard was incredible in the 4th quarter, destroying the Hornets' offensive sets as comprehensively as he would do in Orlando. The final block on Robin Lopez was as athletic a play has he has made all season long. Of course, the Lakers wouldn't have been in quite such a dire position if not for Dwight's rather moronic fouls in the first half, but he was definitely a net positive in the overall equation.]