Here we see Howard exclaiming, "Oh I want to go be a Bobcat this summer".
How many times have we seen it? The Bobcats start the game holding their own in the early minutes of the first. Then, one team seems to figure out a thing or two and slide out to a steady lead by a handful of points. Try as they might to regain offensive momentum, nothing seems to work for the trailing team. Oh yeah. Been there, done that, got no bidders on eBay trying to unload the T-shirt. But how often has the team in the lead been the Charlotte Bobcats? THAT made you pause for a moment, admit it! Well, do you want to find out what happened after that? You know what to do. If I can stay up half the night to write it, you can click the button to read it. (Uh, pretty please?)
Well, the difference was, with just under 2 minutes left in the first, the Lakers took advantage of some very cold shooting (how often does Ramon Sessions miss a bunny layup?) to pull even with the Cats at 23 all. Ben Gordon tried his best to retake the lead, but he got a pair of shots swatted down easily by Pau Gasol and the Lakers found their way to a lead at the end of the quarter. The bad news, Charlotte was having all kinds of trouble finding the basket. The good? The score was close and for once the Felines weren’t struggling to hold their opponents to less than a 150-point pace. Score after the first frame; Charlotte 25 – Los Angeles 27.
It seemed as if Dwight Howard needed the opening whistle of the 2nd quarter to remind him that he usually beats the slop out of the Cats. Whatever the wake-up-call might have been, Howard went on a tear and led the Lakers on a 14-point run despite a pair of timeouts by Coach Dunlap to try and break momentum. School was definitely in session. Several times the Lakers scored after four or more passes in quick rotation without the ball touching the floor once. If Charlotte somehow managed to properly anticipate the play (a gorgeous block by MKG for example) the Lakers were inside the box to steal the rebound. Meta World Peace caused conniption fits at the other end, seemingly stealing the ball at will. The Lakers made the Bobcats players look exactly like the raw recruits they truly are. We see the steady growth night after night and it makes it easy to forget just how young most of our players are. Most of our squads are barely out of the “bobkitten” stage and the Laker squad of grizzled, savvy veterans went full-bully. Only the occasional Gordon trey kept it from looking truly ugly.
Luckily, not even the Lakers can stay hot forever. Although the lead briefly crept up to thirteen, our hometown heroes regained their composure in the last five minutes of the half. The defense began to find success in denial mode and our shots started falling again at the other end. The Cats took the fanciest LA Flash N’ Flair the Lakers could dish out and showed the surprising maturity that their fans love. It took them less than two minutes to erase the lead and come to close to within a single point. “Flair” turned to “Folly” as Dwight Howard slammed an alley-oop from Kobe Bryant into the shot clock. A rebound and fast-break later and the Cats retook the lead. A brilliant block by Byron Mullens capped it all off and the Cats were on a 16-4 run and leading by 6. By the time the squads reluctantly headed to the locker rooms for halftime, the Cats were doing some mauling and had a rare lead at the split, 57-51.
A look at the individual and team stats made it easy to see why. The Bobcats were out-rebounding LA 27-24 and had reduced the Lakers shooting percentage to .614%. Individually, the Cats already had 4 players in double figures. The bench was struggling mightily, which doesn’t bode well for our starters energy in the 3 additional games to come before the week is out, but I think it’s a safe bet to assume that all that was on the player’s minds at the half was a victory against the Lakers.
The beginning of the third brought more fire from the Cats. Moments after Kemba Walker scored while wearing Dwight Howard like a Goodwill coat, a wide-open Mullens drained a trey from the top of the front court. Charlotte led by ten after the first pair of minutes hit the bottom of the hourglass and was showing no sign of slacking off. One minute later the lead was 14 and it looked like there were at least a dozen men on the court wearing Bobcats colors. Howard got caught traveling and Bismack Biyombo, helpless in the first half, exploded. He drew Howard’s third foul to send him to the bench and then the lead was sixteen. THREE blocks by Mullens, a Sessions drive that left the entire Lakers defense saying, “I thought YOU had him” and I was wishing I’d TIVO’ed the game so I could watch it over and over again. Kemba walker laid in his 24th points of the night and Kobe Bryant did just what Bobcats fans would ask for. He decided to take over and do it all himself. This is stage one of a Lakers loss. Stage two is clamping down on Bryant and making him frustrated instead of effective. If it were that easy, the Lakers wouldn’t have racked up all those championships in recent years. After that point, things happened quickly.
Bryant – drive for a layup. Bryant – pass to a Howard alley-oop. Lead down to a dozen. Howard and Bryant combine for 5 offensive boards in one possession until MKG has no choice but to grab on and pray for a foul. Howard makes a pair from the line. Lead down to ten. Bryant – misses a trey and starts yelling at the refs all the way up the court. Two shot clock violations in consecutive possessions prompt Steve Martin to comment that the Cats lead the league in taking 25 seconds to get a shot off. Bryant chokes on an easy jumper and continues to disrespect the game by chewing on the ref’s ear. Ben Gordon hits two in a row forcing the Lakers to trade baskets instead of shrinking the lead further. As the clock finally died to end the quarter, the Lakers had made good use of the charity stripe but the Bobcats bench did its job. The successful Charlotte starters got a healthy rest heading into the final quarter and the bench reserves managed to hand them back a diminished, but still healthy lead; 84-76.
Charlotte put a scare into Mecklenburg County insomniacs by coming up empty on their first 7 possessions of the fourth. If you give any team in the NBA a nickel, they’ll turn it into big money. Kobe scored an and-one at the other end and the Lakers retook the lead. He followed that up with a beastly rainbow trey and LA was on a 17-0 run. At the other end, Jodie Meeks took Bismack down like a prom date in a motel room. Gerald Henderson had seen his fill. He jumped so high to dunk on Dwight Howard that Lax Radar screens reported a UFB (Unidentified Flying Bobcat).
It was at this time (about 4 minutes left) that the Cats ran into the same nightmare that plagued them against Orlando. They started missing shots from inside the paint. With some key defensive stops they were able to stay within a couple of points. The Felines guards were carrying the team in desperation. FINALLY Bismack was able to drop in a shot after an offensive rebound and the score was tied once again with three remaining.
Kobe, despite growing frustration, suddenly racked up his 28th point of the night to give the Lakers a 99-97 lead with just under a minute and a half to go. A busted play after a Charlotte timeout and Kobe banked in another to make it 30. At the other end Ramon Sessions missed a shot but LA goal-tended. The refs decided to review the call because of a Lakers foul by an unidentified player. Upon review, the refs decided to send Sessions to the line but neither the broadcasters nor the house announcer ever mentioned which Lakers player committed the foul. The Bobcats, trailing by a point, took their final timeout with 21 seconds left in the game and seeking to make good on a final shot.
Kemba Walker drove for a layup and missed. Henderson, trailing behind him, grabbed the rebound and missed. Mullens managed to get a hand on the rebound and tap it back to a desperation trey by Ben Gordon at the buzzerrrrrr…
He missed. Final score Lakers 101, Bobcats 100.
Tomorrow night the Bobcats will try to find some way to overcome the blow of losing for the twelfth time in a row. THEN they’ll try to recover from losing their second time in a row in a game they would have won if they didn’t miss multiple layup opportunities at the end of the action. They’ll board the plane for Phoenix and try to remind themselves that the Suns also have a losing record. Hopefully the guys will remember that they are a season closer to turning it all around and that they are pros on the rise. I’ll be right here. I’ll be rooting for our Cats and if you’re asleep at the tipoff remember you can find out all the details when next you open your eyes. All you have to do is come on back to the Trade Street Post.