The Charlotte Bobcats continued to build on what has become an impressive stretch Tuesday night, defeating the Los Angeles Lakers 117-110 in double overtime.
Boris Diaw led the Bobcats with 23 points, nine rebounds, and nine assists and the Bobcats beat the Lakers for the fifth time in their last six meetings.
The game was close from cover to cover, as the Bobcats got off to a nice start, holding the Lakers to a season-low 16 first quarter points. Charlotte remained in control of the game for almost the full 48 minutes of regulation.
The Bobcats led by seven with a little over two minutes to go in the fourth quarter before the Lakers whipped up a comeback cocktail that consisted of missed Bobcats free throws and Kobe Bryant magic. The Lakers rally was topped off when Derek Fisher hit a three-pointer with 14 seconds left to tie the game at 93-93 and ultimately force overtime.
The Lakers scored the first six points of overtime and it looked as though they had the game in hand with just under three minutes to go in the extra period. The Bobcats rallied back, however, and a Diaw three-pointer with 32.2 seconds left the game tied at 103 apiece just seconds after Bryant fouled out of the game. Raymond Felton's last-second 22-footer clanged off the rim and the teams headed for another extra period.
The second overtime was just as back-and-forth as the rest of the game until Shannon Brown, playing in place of Gerald Wallace, nailed a three from the left corner to give the Bobcats a 110-107 lead they would not relinquish. Wallace left late in the fourth quarter after a flagrant foul by Andrew Bynum sent him writhing in pain on the floor.
A mid-range jumper from Emeka Okafor and a few free throws later, the Bobcats came out on top with a 117-110 win.
Bryant had 38 points and eight rebounds for the Lakers and Bynum was big as well, scoring 24 points to go along with 14 rebounds and six blocks. Pau Gasol struggled all night, scoring only 10 points on 4-16 shooting and turning the ball over three times.
“Pau probably had the worst night he’s had as a Laker,” said head coach Phil Jackson after the game.
The win sees the Bobcats improve to 19-26 on the year, a record not indicative of the brand of ball they have been playing lately. Charlotte is 8-4 in their last 12 games and has shown drastic improvements since the beginning of the season.
Since the trade that sent high-flying Jason Richardson, Jared Dudley, and a future draft pick to Phoenix for Boris Diaw, Raja Bell, and Sean Singletary, the Bobcats are 12-10. If that number doesn't jump off the page at you, consider that the team was 7-16 prior to the trade.
Diaw and Bell have given the Bobcats a new vision. Bell is a terrific defender and his scoring has elevated since he got out of the shadows of Amare Stoudemire, Shaq, and Steve Nash. The same goes for Diaw.
Since he has come to the Bobcats, Diaw is averaging almost 15 points a game—higher than any single game total from this season with Phoenix. He has also started every game since coming to the Bobcats, something he didn't do all year with Phoenix.
The Lakers came into Tuesday's game having won 14 of 17 and with an NBA-best 35-8 record. This did not phase the Bobcats, who have already beaten the defending world champion Boston Celtics this year.
“I just think it was a terrific performance against a great team,” Bobcats head coach Larry Brown said. “I really don’t know how to explain it because they are playing at such a high level.”
The Bobcats have a short turn-around, as they head to Portland to face the Blazers on Wednesday night. The Lakers open a six-game road trip in Minnesota on Friday and will play 22 of their next 31 games on the road.
The Bobcats will finish the first half of the season with their best record at the All-Star break, and will likely eclipse the team record for wins in a season, 33, if they continue to play as well as they have recently.
Don't look now, but the Bobcats are only one-and-a-half games out of playoff contention.