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Charlotte Hornets 108, Los Angeles Lakers 98: Notes and Observations

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The Charlotte Hornets have returned to .500 against the Los Angeles Lakers in the Bobcats-Hornets era. A few notes on Charlotte's success against Kobe Bryant's Lakers teams and the game from last night itself.

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Back to .500 Against Kobe Bryant's Lakers

The Hornets are back to .500 against the Los Angeles Lakers in the Bobcats-Hornets era (since 2004-05 when the Bobcats played their first season) or as I like to call it - the Horncats era. Even though Charlotte has received its old franchise history back with the acquiring of the Hornets name last year, I still view this as a sort of a separate stint in the team's history in situations like this one.

Charlotte used to be surprisingly frisky in the first years of the Bobcats as they managed to maintain a record over .500 against LA, a mark which is almost unique due to the long-standing dominance of the Lakers franchise. Recently though the Horncats had gone on a 2-6 losing streak against the Lakers and lost their superiority in this match-up.

With this win the team is back at .500 (11-11) and it would be cool to go one game up later on in the season at Los Angeles to withhold this random and small predominance Charlotte has had over Kobe Bryant. The Horncats haven't always fielded the best teams, yet they always forced Bryant to sweat through some classic games.

There's the Kobe game-winner in the inaugural year of the Bobcats franchise (click for the YouTube link of that bucket), the win in three overtimes despite Kobe's 58 points in 2006, the victory on the road in overtime despite Kobe's game-tying three-pointer to force the extra 5 minutes, Mike Dunlap's team collapsing after being up 18 in the third quarter of the Gerald Henderson-inhuman-poster-over-Dwight-game and many more memorable square-offs.

Or how about the Bobcats winning 3 out of 4 games against the back-to-back Lakers champion teams in 2009 and 2010?

These games might not mean much nationally and, heck, maybe even Bryant doesn't care for this, however, there should be fans from the Bobcats era who remember these regional classics and would like the team to close out its score against Kobe's Lakers at 12-11. It would be Charlotte's own poetic justice, a underdog team showing its teeth and coming out on top against the world-known Kobe Bryant's Lakers, with the Hornets supposedly passing up on Bryant by trading him on draft night in 1996.

(Bryant himself has played in all but three of these 22 games. He missed the first ever Bobcats vs. Bryant duel in 2005 and two games in 2014 and 2015 due to injuries. In games in which he participated in, the Bobcats are 9-10, thus still capable of getting to .500).

Kobe's Errors on Defense

The 5-from-20's from the field are the most noticeable aspect of this rather unproductive last hurrah by Bryant. His defense, however, was also pretty much non-existent last night, as it tends to happen with him these last few years.

P.J. Hairston, in particular, could exploit Kobe's lack of effort en route to his fifth double-digit scoring game during the last seven-game stretch. The complaining on the no-call, while your man leaks out for a fast-break bucket seemingly is the quintessential mistake of the old wing player in his athletic decline.

One can, perhaps, summon at least some compassion for the declining superstar not being able to get the calls he used to get, however, there's no sympathy to be found when such flat-footed defense permitted P.J. to make two threes in a row.

An "attaboy" to Hairston for making use of these advantages and a "nay" to Kobe for his overall body of work last night.

Al Jefferson's Return

There is some benefit of the doubt a 6-10 NBA behemoth deserves after returning from a calf injury but it's not as if Jefferson is out there in his usual role struggling through the rust. He's been an even lesser part of the offense despite the supposedly comfy and new role of the bench post brute who could/should thrive against incompetent defenders.

Jefferson has averaged only 3.5 post touches (per NBA.com) in 16.1 minutes per game since his return, which is about the same amount of touches in the post per 36 minutes (7.69 before the injury, 7.82 since the return) with which he started the season.

That amount has an asterisk to it now, however, as Al looks like just every other bench big when playing 16 minutes and being primarily used for off-the-ball screen-setting. It's one thing to have that particular amount of touches against the starters but it's another thing when you're relegated to the back-up center role and still not being used particularly much.

Last night he first attacked in the post (he passed out of the first post touch in the first half) with 7:37 left in the game on a Nick Young mis-match, on which he awkwardly elbowed the wing in the face and committed an offensive foul.

It's to be seen whether the coaching staff increases his touches once he regains his conditioning back but this just might be the next step of the phase out of Jefferson as the team heads into a more contemporary style of playing basketball.