USA TODAY Sports
While Dwight Howard led the defense in the Lakers comeback victory over the Hornets, Kobe Bryant handled the offense masterfully. Breaking down how the Lakers chipped away at the 25 point lead.
Thursday we broke down the defense featuring a demonic Dwight Howard defending the path to the rim for the Los Angeles Lakers. Today, we'll take a look at how the offense took advantage of the opportunity the defense created for the offense to play catch up. While some of the New Orleans Hornets' lead was chipped away from transition baskets after the defense stifled them, the Lakers still had plenty of ground to cover in their half-court sets.
Just a few days prior, the Lakers went to the Dwight-Kobe Bryant high screen and it was effective in creating opportunities. Unfortunately, the Lakers missed a handful of wide open shots, and the Thunder broke away after Serge Ibaka drained a back-breaking three. The Lakers went to the same high screen action again against New Orleans, and once again it created opportunities. This time, though, the Lakers capitalized on it, and wound up with a stunning victory.
The Lakers are down 16 points with 10 minutes remaining in the game. Dwight sets a screen on Al-Farouq Aminu.
Robin Lopez steps up, not quite hedging but not quite sagging either. Aminu is walled off by Howard.
Kobe drives by Lopez and into the paint, where four Hornets defenders are trying to contain him. Much like he did against the Thunder, Kobe passes out after collapsing the defense, and hits Jodie Meeks with a pass. Steve Blake is playing doodle jump in the corner.
Lead down to 13.
Now, Kobe has Aminu in isolation, and will drive past him. Bryant's ability to drive by defenders at this stage of his career, while leading the league in minutes played, is astonishing.
As he drives to the rim both interior help defenders begin losing track of Howard.
As Kobe jumps baseline, Greivis Vasquez recognizes Blake put away his smart phone and is ready to catch and shoot. Unfortunately for him, Lopez jumped to contest Bryant, and Howard is now without a defender who can stop him. (Yes, Kobe is that purple blur under the rim. Video quality isn't always the best).
The picture speaks for itself.
Another Howard-Bryant high screen.
Eric Gordon does a good job of fighting under the screen. Aminu is playing free safety in the paint while staying within range of Meeks.
Kobe turns the corner of the screen and zips a one handed pass over to him anyway. Aminu is already recovering to challenge the shot.
He plays it well, but Meeks drains another three, and the Lakers are now within ten with over five minutes of game left.
Howard is going to set another high screen
Gordon is obliterated by the screen as Kobe brushes the pick. Lopez is there once again lurking. Notice that Steve Nash is standing in the corner. While Vasquez is within reach to help on the play, he also has to stay within range of Nash, who is one of the greatest shooters in the game historically. Nash is on pace to notch himself another 50-40-90 percent season (currently shooting 42 percent from deep).
Kobe has the defense off balance between his driving and kicking, and his own field-goal attempts. He pulls up at the turn of the arc and drains a three. Lopez attempts to recover but isn't in position to alter the shot. The Lakers have cut the lead down to single digits.
Play #6 - Kobe ties the game
The rally is near completion as the Lakers are down two with 1:39 left in the quarter. Howard sets a high screen.
Gordon once again runs into the all, leaving Lopez to stop Kobe who is currently in "all-will everything" mode.
Lopez does a good job of getting in front of Bryant by shifting his feet, but Kobe still cuts by Lopez.
And finishes over with a twisting layup over the outstretched arms of the big man. Game tied. Comeback complete. Mamba initiated.
(If you skip to the 43 second mark in the following video it will be the game tying play)
Play #7 - Putting it away
With the game tied and only 42 seconds left on the clock the Lakers have a chance to take the lead. Howard sets a high screen. Lopez is going to hedge enough to challenge Kobe.
Gordon gets a face full of Howard's chest once again. Kobe drives against Lopez who again does a great job of moving his feet and cutting off Kobe.
The two meet at the elbow but Kobe continues to push.
The nails a monster fall away jumper over Lopez to give the Lakers the lead.
Of course, video is always better.
Bonus - About inbounding the ball...
No breakdown of the comeback would be complete without this complete gaffe of a play from the Hornets. Mike D'Antoni wisely called a timeout (which he deserves credit for) and designs an inbounds play which may, or may not, have turned out as he expected. Notice there is only one Hornets player lined up on the defensive side.
Kobe cuts away from the pack.
The Hornets are nowhere near him as he streaks up the court.
Still nowhere near.
And an easy slam for Kobe.
Here's the video of it, which is worth watching just to listen to Stu Lantz beside himself as he can't believe the Hornets blew it that badly on the play.
Oh, and here's Dwight after the play, doing his best Mamba jaw-jut impersonation.
Kobe ended the night with 42 points and 12 assists and made fantastic choices on the offensive side of the ball while Howard and the Lakers' defense held up their end of the deal on the defensive end. It was a comeback to behold, yet still concerning that the Lakers fell into that hole to begin with. At the end of a back-to-back after playing a tough game against the Thunder, however, it was impressive to see the Lakers execute so crisply on both ends. Credit to the shooters making shots, Howard setting fantastic screens, and Kobe making both big shots and making great decisions. A full team effort on both sides of the ball.
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More on the Lakers:
- Breakdown: Dwight leads the defense against Hornets
- If the Lakers make the playoffs who falls out?
- Phil Jackson texts Dwight Howard
- Dwight: Could have sat till March to improve conditioning
- Beast or Burden: Battling back from deep deficits, the Lakers showed a lot of heart