Los Angeles 93 (7-0) | New Orleans 86 (4-3)
There were bad omens all night. The lighting system went snafu during the team intros, Hugo lost an antenna during one of his timeout routines, and the Hornets looked just this side of abysmal for a solid 24 minutes to open the game.
Despite an impressive late comeback in the fourth, the Lakers never once relinquished the lead. They opened with a 7-1 run, then the Hornets pulled the score closer at 10-9. The Lakers then responded by making it 15-9. And that's a pretty good encapsulation of the night. Lakers go up, Hornets cut the lead, Lakers go up again. Later, down 21, the Hornets opened the third with a 12-2. Six minutes later the Lakers were back up by 19. Second verse, same as the first.
At some point in the first quarter, I wrote, "we look good, they look better." That stance was later amended (in the second and third quarters) to "they look great, we look awful."
But in the fourth quarter, things changed. The lineup looked rejuvenated and CP looked driven. After cutting the lead from 21 to 3 in only ten minutes, the Hornets looked poised for an upset. But with 1:07 remaining on the game clock and 1 second on the shot clock, Kobe nailed the dagger shot from 26 feet away with Posey all up in his business. No way you can defend better on that series. Kobe is just... well, he's Kobe.
And that was it. You've got to hand it to the fans for sticking this one out with the team. The mass exodus midway through the fourth against Atlanta was just embarrassing. But not this time. The Hive was off the decibel chart (gauge? meter? I know nothing about science) as the fans got on their feet and gave it everything they had for the final four minutes or so.
All in all, there were some positives: CP put up huge numbers (30 points, 13 assists, 7 boards, 2 steals, and 2 turnovers), D.West put up his first double-double of the season, and we out-rebounded the most feared frontcourt in the league, and we kept finished strong against a team that has been beating its opponents by an average of 20 points per game.
But the positives had not shot of outweighing the negatives: We made ZERO shots from deep in the first half. Mo Pete had ZERO points. D.West had SIX turnovers, most of which came at very inopportune (read: momentum-killing) moments, the Hornets turned the ball over 16 times to the Lakers' 9, and we were really slow on defensive rotations, allowing an unusual amount of open shots (Gasol in particular benefitted from this).
Bottom line: we looked like title contenders in the fourth. Now we just have to carry that over for more than one quarter a game for the rest of the season.
Couple of observations before I leave you:
- Beautiful dunk by D.West over Bynum in the first quarter. That should make the cut on You Just Got Dunked On.
- CP finished with at least 20/10 for the seventh time in seven games, improving the record he broke last Saturday against the Heat.
- Even though he pulled down 10 boards, Tyson looked disinterested for much of the game. He's going to have to be way more aggressive this season if he hopes to meet his personal goal of leading the league in boards. Of course, his primary motivation should be to win.
- Paul got blocked twice on 1 possession. Ouch.
- Some ridiculous calls by the officials. Tyson got called for a hip check that was 100% BS (Fisher was the beneficiary). Tim Duncan gets away with that stuff and he does it on purpose. Later, Hilton set a perfectly legal screen on Fisher, who then bounced off him as though he was a linebacker and not a stationary defender. Fisher got the call again. Ugghhh... let's talk about something else.
- I've never seen players complain to the refs more than Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. With about 4 to go in the second, Pau sank a bucket off a Kobe feed. Meanwhile, Bynum began yelling at the refs for not getting a call away from the ball. He then handled the "missed call" by shoving Posey to the ground during the transition. Technical foul. Time to grow up Bynum, you play in the NBA.
- [Rant Alert] I cannot stand the way the NBA feels the need to fill every available moment of free air in the ether with some sort of sponsored activity, contest, or dance. Can we really not sit through a 30 second timeout without having to see the Honeybees? It's infuriating and it ruins the fan's interest in the game by killing whatever momentum they've managed to wrangle up. I seriously had a kinniption at half time when they announced the requisite "If the Hornets score 100 points, everyone gets a free loaded chicken wrap from Popeyes." WE WERE ON PACE TO SCORE 60 POINTS AT HALFTIME. 60 POINTS. Who cares about chicken at a time like that. I certainly don't give one iota about chicken when we are losing by 21. We would have had to score more points in each of the two remaining quarters than we did in the entire first half to pull that off. I began yelling at no one (well, maybe the announcer, Chuck... but I wasn't mad at him). Can't they curb these sponsored things if a team is losing and instead show some uplifting stats or the Pistol Pete movie? Wouldn't that be an improvement? I mean, unless they want me to associate their product with the agony of losing. Rant over.