They didn't, but I'd like to believe the Los Angeles Lakers read our pregame diss raps.
You know, I'm sitting here trying to think of some analogy or allusion to put tonight's game in perspective and I can't think of anything. I'm not sure there is a narrative. This was a game I'm struggling to believe happened, because it defies all preconceived knowledge of both the Lakers and Bobcats.
Once upon a time, there were the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers were blessed with fortune throughout their history, bullying opposing teams into coughing up great draft picks and others into selling terrific talent for little more than bus fare and a bag of chips. The Lakers have always been a great team, save for a few retooling years between eras.
On the other hand, the Bobcats have been blessed with terrible luck since their conception. They've never had a star in the traditional sense, and are usually the type of team the Lakers bully into giving up assets.
It's strange. Despite these things, the Bobcats have always had their way with the Lakers. The two teams are now 8-9 all-time, which speaks to the level of play our feline friends have put forth against Lakers historically.
That's what makes this game difficult to comprehend.
The Bobcats brought their A-game tonight. The stats back that up.
They had 30 assists to the Lakers' 23, grabbed 46 boards (as did the Lakers), and shot reasonably well by their standards.
But they lost. Why?
There are a few reasons, but there's one theme that stands out. The Bobcats did not play two halves of basketball.
In the first half, the Bobcats shot a respectable 44% from the field, while the Lakers limited themselves to a measly 39.5%. In the second half, the Bobcats shot 41% from the field, while the Lakers shot 50%.
In the first half, the Bobcats had 19 assists and three turnovers, while the Lakers had 11 of each. In the second half, the Bobcats had 11 assists and seven turnovers, while the Lakers had 12 assists and just two turnovers.
As bad as the Lakers have been this season, they're still infinitely more talented than the Bobcats. In the first half, the Bobcats were playing decent defense. That said, the Lakers were still getting pretty good looks. They just couldn't hit any of them. In the second half, those same shots started falling.
That isn't to say the Bobcats' defense was bad. It wasn't. There were a few ugly lapses and a handful of zone possessions, but overall, the Bobcats played well on defense.
It's funny. I heard Bobcats assistant coach Rick Brunson say that the Bobcats' focus on defense was denying Dwight Howard the ball. They failed miserably in the first half, where Dwight scored 12 points on 4-7 shooting. However, after the half, Dwight Howard didn't attempt another field goal despite playing 18 minutes. So, it worked.
At the cost of giving up easy baskets to the rest of the team, mind you.
It was a gamble, and all things considered, a worthwhile one. If you can take Dwight out of the game offensively, you usually take him out of the game defensively. The Bobcats had a solid 50 points in the paint tonight, and scored 24 fast break points. Dwight was not invested in this game. But because the Lakers are ridiculously talented, they won anyway.
It didn't help that my punching bag, Byron Mullens, had a bad game. Don't be fooled by the box score. Our Byron was not good. Mullens in the fourth quarter: 0-4 from the field, one rebound, one turnover, one foul. He played nearly nine minutes in the fourth.
Conversely, Gerald Henderson had a great game. Henderson finished with a solid 20 points on 8-17 shooting, 10 rebounds, three assists, three steals, a block, and RIDICULOUSLY good defense on Kobe Bryant.
Oh, right. Kobe.
North Carolinians, we need to have a talk.
I get it. I do. The Bobcats aren't great. The Lakers are usually awesome and have a cool history and one of the best ever in Kobe Bryant. I totally get that.
But that doesn't mean you cheer for the Lakers louder than you cheer for your Bobcats. And you definitely don't give Kobe a loud, emphatic "M-V-P!" chant when he's shooting free throws. I can't think of any reason to justify that behavior. I'm sorry. That's unacceptable.
Come to think of it, momentum really started to swing when the crowd began to cheer on the Lakers. Yes, I'm blaming you for this loss, ticket-buying fans.
Anyway, this game was pretty fun. It didn't end the way any of us wanted, but none of us should be surprised. The Lakers are just a better team, no matter how dysfunctional they might be. They came together at the right time and pounded on a crappy team.
This stuff happens, but we shouldn't dwell on it. Onto the next one!
(Note: Despite starting the last few games, Jeff Adrien didn't play tonight. Prior to the game, Dunlap said Adrien would be backing up Mullens. Haywood backed up Mullens, and only got two minutes. Not sure what's going on there.)