In a game which could only be described as a "must-win," the Los Angeles Lakers escaped with a 102-96 victory over the Washington Wizards. Led by Jodie Meeks' 24 points off the bench, L.A. finally reached the 10-win plateau.
24 games into the season.
Although this will not end discussions of their shortcomings, the Lakers took care of business. If not for a meaningless three-pointer by Cartier Martin, this would have been a more impressive nine-point victory.
The question is, how do we grade each individual performer on a four-quarter basis? You're about to find out.
Overall Grade: C+
Chris Duhon may not be Steve Nash, but he continues to fill in well as a role player.
Duhon connected on two timely three-pointers. The first came during the Lakers' second-quarter comeback, and the second came during their lead-extending push in the third.
Duhon would finish with an additional five assists and just one turnover.
It will be rare that Duhon blows people away with his statistics. It's also uncommon for Duhon to blow an opportunity to win a game.
Duhon plays mistake-free basketball and shoots consistently from the perimeter. The tale of a former Duke Blue Devil.
Such was on full display against Washington.
Stat Line: 6 points, 5 assists, 2 rebounds, 1 turnover
Overall Grade: B
Kobe Bryant finished the Lakers' victory over Washington with a game-high 30 points. He also shot a concerning 9-of-29 from the floor.
Even as he battled back spasms, there is absolutely no excuse for shooting 29 shots when you're making anything less than 14 of them.
With that being said, Kobe's aggression was a key to the Lakers' comeback during the second quarter. He also played the role of facilitator more often than his shooting numbers might suggest.
Finishing with seven assists proves just that.
Bryant also had seven rebounds, two steals and one block. This proved how attentive he was to the defensive end of the floor, which showed in his effort on Jordan Crawford and Bradley Beal.
A young duo that combined for 7-of-24 shooting.
Kobe may have saved his grade on a Dwight Howard free-throw attempt with 1:21 remaining and the Lakers ahead by seven points.
As soon as D12 put it up, Kobe ran down the lane, leaped into the air and tipped it in for two points. The bigs on the block had no idea what had happened.
To answer their questions, Kobe just sealed a victory. Even as he had his worst shooting night of the season.
Stat Line: 30 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, 9-29 FG, 11-13 FT
Overall Grade: B-
Metta World Peace may have finished 0-for-6 from beyond the arc, but he also made all five of his two-point field-goal attempts. That includes an "and-one" which permanently changed the momentum of the game.
He also hit all three of his free-throw attempts.
MWP may not have done a good job on Cartier Martin, who finished with 21 points, but he contributed to a solid team effort on D. Although it took a full half for that effort to kick in, World Peace was a key to it.
As were his six rebounds and three steals.
It wasn't a spectacular evening by World Peace, but this is exactly what the Lakers need from him. He picked and chose his spots and contributed in a respectable manner.
As soon as he forces his opponent to miss a few more of those three-point attempts, MWP will be golden.
Stat Line: 13 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals
Overall Grade: C+
Going small with Devin Ebanks may not be the long-term answer, but it appeared to work against the Washington Wizards.
Ebanks made four of his first six shots and did a great job of getting out in transition. He also worked the perimeter well, taking the ball in stride and dumping it low to Dwight Howard.
Although Pau Gasol is the better player, Ebanks proved to be a solid fit as a stretch 4 who serves as a facilitator.
The signature moment for Ebanks came on a D12 block, as the former West Virginia Mountaineer jumped out in transition for a two-handed slam. This is the type of open-court explosiveness that the Lakers have lacked.
Could Ebanks be the key to turning things around? So far, so good.
Stat Line: 8 points, 5 rebounds, 1 steal
Overall Grade: B+
Dwight Howard picked up his third foul of the game with 7:36 remaining in the second quarter. It came on a play which created a nine-point lead for the Washington Wizards.
An unfortunate detraction from an otherwise stellar defensive performance by Dwight Howard.
This isn't entirely on Howard. The Lakers are rotating poorly and allowing perimeter players to hit the lane with virtually no contest.
Fortunately, the team turned things around in the second half.
Howard was aggressive on defense, blocking shots left and right. Although he got away with goaltending early and was called for one during the fourth, this is the type of play you want from D12.
Send a message that all shots will be altered if they come his way.
D12 finished with 14 rebounds, four blocks and one steal. He also committed four fouls, but only one came during the second half.
Howard may have been quiet offensively, but he had one of his best defensive performances of the season.
Stat Line: 12 points, 14 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 blocks, 1 steal
Overall Grade: A
With Kobe Bryant struggling with back spasms and the starters lacking in the scoring department, Jodie Meeks took over.
It felt like a flashback to his days at the University of Kentucky, with Meeks lighting it up from beyond the arc and utilizing his underrated handle to enter the paint. This led to his finishing with a total of 24 points on the evening.
Most if which came as he scored 10 consecutive points for the Lakers and almost single-handedly gave them a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter.
For the night, Meeks made 9-of-14 from the field, 4-of-7 from beyond the arc and both of his attempts at the free-throw line. He also grabbed five rebounds and swiped three steals.
What more could you ask for?
Stat Line: 24 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 steals, 9-14 FG, 4-7 3PT
Overall Grade: C+
With the Los Angeles Lakers trailing, 41-32, and Dwight Howard on the sideline with foul trouble, it was the second unit that took over. Not Kobe Bryant or Metta World Peace.
Darius Morris started it all off with a three-pointer, thus leading to Robert Sacre following up with two baskets of his own. Unfortunately, that was about the extent of the evening from the Lakers' embattled bench—aside from Jodie Meeks, of course.
Sacre finished with a respectable four points, four rebounds and a block in 16 minutes. Morris finished with five points and an assist.
They made every shot they attempted, but they also were limited in production. Their key contributions during the Lakers' comeback earn them a boost in the grade.
Sixth-man Meeks highlighted the evening, while the rest of the reserves were solid enough for a W.
Combined Stat Line: 33 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, 1 block, 13-19 FG