The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the New Orleans Hornets and have slid back into the eighth seed, final score 104-96. The Utah Jazz lost at home to the Oklahoma City Thunder and have flip-flopped spots with the Lakers once again. Playoff chances are, once again, in the hands of the Lakers and how they manage the final four games of the regular season.
There was a first half that happened that went about the same as every other Lakers games this season. Their defense was getting eaten alive by dribble penetration. Jodie Meeks couldn't do anything but bend at the will of Eric Gordon, who finished with 22 points and three assists. The Lakers went into the half down five and looking like they hadn't found anything in a moment of desperation.
Then the second half came and Pau Gasol dominated the game and was key in the Lakers surge back into the game. While the offense sputtered to finish the first half, He was making the right pass, attacking off the dribble, finishing at the rim, and working in the post. All Pau things, of course, but rarely in such a dominant fashion where he single-handedly took over the game. Gasol ended the night with 22 points, 11 rebounds, and four assists.
His deal-sweetener? After falling to his knees, Gasol placed a perfect bounce pass to a cutting Antawn Jamison for a basket. The man is unreal at times, and played a big game when the Lakers desperately needed it.
Then, out of the gates in the fourth quarter came Kobe Bryant who had been quiet through the game previously. In equally stunning dominance, Kobe took over the final quarter of basketball. He scored the Lakers next 15 points once the fourth quarter was under way, then put a dagger in the game with his assist to Dwight Howard. Dwight caught the wrap-around pass off of Bryant's dribble penetration and slammed the door shut with the finish with an easy dunk. Kobe finished the game with 30 points, six rebounds, and six assists.
More importantly for Kobe in the fourth quarter, however, was the defensive responsibility he took in isolation against Gordon, who was roasting Meeks and the Lakers throughout the game.
With Kobe and Pau taking over in the second half they were able to put the finishing touches on the Hornets as they picked up an important victory and have begun their final five games with a momentous victory. It was far from a masterpiece but the Lakers simply needed to paint Tuesday night. With the Thunder defeating the Jazz it became an even bigger night for Los Angeles, as they now lead Utah in the standings.
Anthony Davis scored 18 points while grabbing 14 rebounds on the night. Howard finished with 19 points but struggled on the glass again as he grabbed only six rebounds. In his return, Metta World Peace played 15 minutes, scored four points, and had one assist in his first game since knee surgery.
The trick will be bouncing back Wednesday on the road and all of that business, but for a night the Lakers and Lakers fans can find solace in a win. A win that gives the Lakers control of the end of their season one last time with a road game tomorrow, and a sweet win tonight.
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