Final Score: Lakers 101, Bobcats 100
Kobe Bryant had 30 points, seven assists and six rebounds as the Lakers (12-14) edged the Bobcats (7-17) at Staples Center. Pau Gasol returned from an eight-game absence (tendinitis) and finished the night with 10 points, nine rebounds, five assists and four blocks in 29 minutes.
Kemba Walker led Charlotte with 28 points and seven assists.
Both teams had their moments of brilliance and incompetence, but the Lakers made enough plays down the stretch to salvage what would have been a disastrous home loss.
Kobe Bryant was the best player on the floor for the entire night. With his team struggling to find buckets down the stretch, the Black Mamba struck for seven of L.A.'s final nine points, none bigger than his 19-foot jumper with 52 seconds left that proved to be the game winner. The Lakers point guards struggled at both ends of the floor, but Bryant once again assumed control of the offense and put his team in a position to win.
Perhaps the key to the game, though, was coach Mike D'Antoni's decision to save Metta World Peace for his second unit. World Peace was one of just three Lakers to have started in each of the team's first 25 games prior to Tuesday's contest. As a reserve, he was able to find minutes at the power forward spot where he helped harass Byron Mullens, who had been torching the Lakers starting bigs from the perimeter. Throw in his rebounding and scoring numbers, and it was clear that this move did not bother him.
The Bobcats nearly stole this victory thanks to a relentless effort that was unmatched by their opponents. Charlotte had a decisive advantage in terms of athleticism and looked to exploit it at every opportunity. They chased down loose balls, battled for rebounds and pushed the tempo all game.
But the Lakers edge in talent prevailed, albeit by a much smaller margin than most anticipated. L.A. tied their season-high with a three-game winning streak, while Charlotte's losing streak extended to 12 games.
By the numbers.
A flurry of attempts, all short. Started with a Walker drive that was erased by a Howard block. Henderson found the rebound and just rimmed out a point-blank layup. Mullens tipped the basketball, but couldn't get up a shot. Ball deflected to Gordon at the top of the key, but his final attempt was errant. Lakers win 101-100.
Bobcats ball with a chance to take the final shot. Who gets the call? Walker has team-high 28, Sessions has 20 and Henderson has 19.
Michael Jordan will shoot the game-winner for the Bobcats.— Marcel Mutoni (@marcel_mutoni) December 19, 2012
Lakers 101, Bobcats 100 — 0:21 REMAINING IN THE 4TH QUARTER
Howard called for goaltending on a Sessions layup. Meeks whistled for a foul. Refs checked the replay, but the call stands. Lakers 101, Bobcats 100 — 0:47 REMAINING IN 4TH QUARTER
Bryant blows past Henderson, then absorbs heavy contact from Biyombo while finishing at the rim. Bryant has a team-high 28. Lakers 99, Bobcats 97 — 1:26 REMAINING IN THE 4TH QUARTER
Lakers opt for the hack-a-Biyombo strategy (0-for-4 on the night). He calmly stepped to the line and buried both. For those of you who are curious, Howard is 6-of-8 from the charity stripe tonight. Tied at 97 — 2:00 REMAINING IN 4TH QUARTER
Clearly the games aren't played on paper:
The Lakers have Kobe, Pau and Dwight . The Bobcats have Kemba, Gerald Henderson and Bismack Biyombo. Who do you think deserves to win?— Ben Swanson (@CardboardGerald) December 19, 2012
Lakers 97, Bobcats 95 — 2:18 REMAINING IN 4TH QUARTER
It's been equal parts brilliant and horrendous:
This game is too much for me to handle.— Ben Swanson (@CardboardGerald) December 19, 2012
Will the finish be any different? Tied at 95 — 2:36 REMAINING IN 4TH QUARTER
Bryant looked away from an open Morris in the corner and an open Gasol near the top of the key to force up a turnaround jumper over three defenders. He missed, Bobcats found a bucket on the other end. Bobcats 95, Lakers 95 — 2:43 REMAINING IN 4TH QUARTER
Lakers broadcasters can't believe the "confusion" after Laker defenders vacated Henderson's driving lanes. It's pretty simple, no one wanted to be on a poster. MWP came with the block from behind, though. Lakers 95, Bobcats 91 — 4:08 REMAINING IN 4TH QUARTER
Where will this rank on the dunk ladder?
Charlotte 6-2 in games decided by four points or less (via Lakers broadcast team). Howard heads to the bench with five fouls. Lakers 92, Bocats 91 — 6:29 REMAINING IN 3RD QUARTER
Gerald Henderson with a dunk of the year candidate. D12 just had to sit and watch that one. Lakers 92, Bobcats 89 — 7:44 REMAINING IN 4TH QUARTER
Lakers in the midst of a 28-4 run since the 5:37 mark of the third quarter. Lakers 90, Bobcats 84 — 8:41 REMAINING IN 4TH QUARTER
Bryant with the nifty double-clutch layup and he's headed to the charity stripe. Lakers open the quarter on an 11-0 run:
/makes implosion noises— Ben Swanson (@CardboardGerald) December 19, 2012
Lakers 87, Bobcats 84 — 9:08 REMAINING IN 4TH QUARTER
A look at Bryant's impressive block from earlier in the game.
Gasol opens the fourth with a bucket on L.A.'s first trip and an assist on their second. Maybe D'Antoni won't need to lean so heavily on Bryant down the stretch. Then again, maybe it wouldn't be a bad thing if he did:
Kobe played the whole second half the past two games. There's good reason to do so tonight: Lakers losing and have three days off coming up.— KEVIN DING (@KevinDing) December 19, 2012
Bobcats 84, Lakers 80 — 11:11 REMAINING IN 4TH QUARTER
Lakers defense has looked better in this quarter, but Charlotte's still got a 26-24 advantage for the period. Bobcats 84, Lakers 77 0:0.9 REMAINING IN 3RD QUARTER
Lakers won't go away against the Bobcats?
So admirable for the gutty little Lakers to scrap against the mighty Bobcats— Mark Medina (@MedinaLakersNBA) December 19, 2012
Bobcats 84, Lakers 75 — 0:14 REMAINING IN 3RD QUARTER
Gordon's jumper stops the bleeding. That's his first bucket of the night:
Plus/minus is an unreliable stat but if Ben Gordon doesn't have the lowest +/- on Charlotte, I will be surprised— Ben Swanson (@CardboardGerald) December 19, 2012
Bobcats 82, Lakers 71 — 1:01 REMAINING IN 3RD QUARTER
Make that another shot-clock violation for the Bobcats. Charlotte hasn't scored since the 5:37 mark. Bobcats 80, Lakers 70 — 2:02 REMAINING IN 3RD QUARTER
Lakers get four shots on that offensive position, which finishes with Howard at the FT line (hits both). Bobcats 80, Lakers 70 — 2:58 REMAINING IN 3RD QUARTER
Lakers force a shot-clock violation. Quitely on a 6-0 run. Bobcats 80, Lakers 68 — 3:08 REMAINING IN 3RD QUARTER
Bryant keeping things close. He's got 18 on 12 shots. But Walker isn't going away (24 points on 17 shots). Bobcats 80, Lakers 68 — 4:20 REMAINING IN 3RD QUARTER
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