After a 17-point loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on March 5, dropping two in a row after a successful stretch of 6-2 would undoubtedly spread panic through LA. Yet due to the prowess of Kobe Bryant, the Lakers came back from as many as 25 to win.
A 42-point, 12-assist night led his team to success, and Bryant's performance was a catalyst as LA outscored New Orleans 33-9 in the final quarter. Let's break down just how Kobe accomplished such a feat.
First Quarter: Eight points (3-of-5 shooting), one assist.
His first points came with just 2:17 left in the period, as Bryant started his night off in unspectacular fashion.
An ill-advised pull-up three clanged off the back iron, just five seconds into the shot-clock, alongside a missed mid-range jumper, getting Kobe off to a bad start. He followed that up with a travel in the low post, as the defense forced Bryant to walk before he could dribble the basketball.
As Eric Gordon headed to the bench with his second foul, a combination of Austin Rivers and Brian Roberts allowed Kobe to get some breathing room. He knocked down an off-balance jumper from above the free-throw line, getting his initial two points of the game.
The guard then hit back-to-back three-pointers, less than 30 seconds apart, to tie the game heading into the break. Roberts seemingly forgot where Bryant was on both shots.
Second Quarter: Nine points (2-of-5 shooting).
After playing the entire first quarter, Bryant was subbed back in with 5:56 to go in the second period. He immediately missed a contested three, and was spectacularly rejected by Ryan Anderson on a drive to the rim.
Much like the first quarter, Kobe needed time to warm up. He was called for a questionable double-dribble, as it appeared Al-Farouq Aminu tipped the ball away. The whistle was late, but it would serve as motivation for Bryant to play better.
A missed isolation three was the last straw for Kobe, as he scored the next nine points for LA (excluding a technical free-throw by Steve Nash). Bryant's and-1 to close the quarter got the Lakers within 19, but the best of his night was yet to come.
Third Quarter: Seven points (2-of-3 shooting), seven assists.
Considering Bryant averages 5.6 assists per game, eclipsing that number in a single period of play is remarkable. He set up all but one of Dwight Howard's field goals, including this powerful alley-oop. Almost every shot came in a pick-and-roll situation, each time on the right side of the floor.
The slow-footed Robin Lopez just couldn't contain Howard's athleticism, opting to limit Kobe's passing vision—yet to no avail.
Bryant's points didn't come until a little under five minutes left, but he headed to the fourth on two trips to the line. His miss on the last free-throw attempt would have cut the deficit, as it remained a glaring 18 points heading to the final quarter.
Fourth Quarter: 18 points (7-of-8 shooting), four assists.
In historic fashion, Kobe saved the best for last. His only miss came on a block by Aminu (which may have been a foul); however, Bryant got the ball right back and hit a fading jumper from the low post.
Jodie Meeks had four three-pointers in the quarter, with all but one coming courtesy of Bryant's passing. The duo scored 30 of LA's 33 fourth-quarter points, as they played off each other expertly.
After Meeks' last three of the night brought the Lakers to within two, Kobe outscored the Hornets 8-0 over the last three minutes of the game.
Bryant tied the score on a twisting layup against Lopez, before hitting a fading jumper over the very same defender. An arsenal of nifty dribble moves got Kobe into the middle, before pulling up on the left side over Lopez.
The big man looked to assume Kobe would drive, and that was just the error he needed to get the open shot. But his night didn't end there.
Bryant received the inbound pass from Steve Blake and sprinted the length of the court. The Hornets' defense on the inbound was extremely confusing, as it almost appeared they were defending against their own basket.
Just as he crushed the hopes of a New Orleans victory, so did Bryant slam through a flashy two-hand dunk. Kobe glared at the crowd with his renowned snarl, celebrating with teammates as the Hornets called a desperate time-out.
Their end-of-game sets were messy to say the least, and Bryant sank two free throws to ice the game. His 42 points matched a season-high, while his 12 assists narrowly missed the high he set at 14 last month.
It was a tough win for the Lakers, and while the Hornets are less than stellar, it just goes to show no opponent should be underestimated. Such a lesson could be learned by the Hornets themselves, as they were outscored 60-35 in the second half.
LA is undoubtedly a more skilled and experienced team, but New Orleans suffered a similar loss on March 4 to the Orlando Magic. They were once again outplayed in the second half, allowing a 69-56 scoring deficit.
However that should not take away from the Lakers' spectacular night. Bryant not only proved that he isn't ready to hang 'em up, but that this team is not ready to lie down just yet. Their 31-31 record has them a few games back from the eighth seed, but team play like this can get them there.
All information sourced from espn.com/nba.
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