Kobe Bryant (24) and Dwight Howard (12) finally had the sort of game the pundits predicted for them in the preseason when they combined to lead a furious comeback on Wednesday, March 6, in New Orleans. The Los Angeles Lakers, after trailing the New Orleans Hornets by 25 points in the first half, closed the game on a 20-0 run to beat the Hornets 108-102. (Photo by Scott Mecum/Flickr.com)
The Los Angeles Lakers had just finished the sort of comeback that, if it had appeared in one of those Hollywood production offices, would have been rejected out of hand.
The Lakers finished their game against the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday, March 6, on a 20-0 run, roaring back from a 25-point deficit to beat the Hornets at the New Orleans Arena 108-102.
OK, so perhaps “roaring back” is a little strong—after all, the Lakers fell behind by 25 with 2:13 to go in the first half and it took awhile for the comeback to take shape.
Once the comeback did take shape, however, it was devastating. In addition to the 20-0 closing kick, the Lakers outscored New Orleans 33-9 in the fourth quarter after training 93-75 at the end of three periods.
Kobe Bryant, in particular, had a night to remember. Bryant scored 13 of his game-high 42 points in the final 6:22 of the contest, making up the majority of that 20-0 run. Some of Bryant’s many highlights are shown here:
For his part, Bryant said he never thought the Lakers would lose. Of course, that’s easy to say after you’ve actually, you know, won.
“I believed we were going to win it the whole time,” The Associated Press reported Bryant saying. “The most important thing for me was to bring my teammates along with me. I had to force the game upon them a little bit and change the momentum and get everybody believing we could do this together.”
Dwight Howard also had a big night for the Lakers with 20 points, 15 rebounds and four blocked shots, including one on New Orleans center Robin Lopez’s attempt to tie the game with less than 30 seconds left. That rejection can be seen in the video below:
Howard was positively giddy after the game. And why not? It was the type of collaboration between Bryant and Howard that had been expected all season long—the 30,000-point career scorer providing the buckets and the former three-time Defensive Player of the Year preventing them on the other end.
Howard spoke at great length about what the Lakers pulled off Wednesday night in the Big Easy:
“This is what it takes when you’re playing for the playoffs and then when you’re in the playoffs, fighting through games like this and it just shows our character. We had a tough one [Tuesday night, a loss at Oklahoma City], we started out on a bad note [Wednesday night], but instead of giving up, we kept fighting until the end.”
Not to be the one to rain on anyone’s parade or anything, but we’re talking about a win over the New Orleans Hornets. Not the Oklahoma City Thunder. Not the Miami Heat. Not even the middling Milwaukee Bucks. The New Orleans Hornets, man.
We know about the Hornets, right? The team with the 21-41 record? The team that’s just 11-20 in its own arena? The team that is such a juggernaut that it ranks in the bottom half of the league in both scoring offense (21st, 94.5 points per game) and scoring defense (16th, 98 points per game)? You mean those New Orleans Hornets?
So this is what it’s down to for the Los Angeles Lakers, not too far removed from back-to-back NBA title runs—celebrating a frenetic comeback against an awful team that never should have been able to get a 25-point lead on the Lakers in the first place.
In fairness, the Lakers have been playing better of late. Since falling a season-high eight games below .500 at 17-25 with a loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Jan. 23, Los Angeles is 14-6 and has climbed back to the break-even point with 20 games remaining.
That leaves the Lakers 1.5 games behind the Utah Jazz for the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference, two in back of the Houston Rockets for seven place and only four games in the rearview mirror of the Golden State Warriors for sixth.
So the Lakers have momentum and have been playing better. They are a legitimate threat to finish perhaps as high as a No. 6 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
But for a team that was hailed as a threat to the Thunder’s supremacy in the West, it seems like a real comedown to be celebrating the fact that it eked out a win over the second-worst team in the conference.