Having failed to win a game in Charlotte since 2008, it was only fitting that the Lakers sixth road game in nine days came against a team that they have struggled mightily with in recent years.
On top of their suspect record against the Bobcats, they were also faced with uncertainty of Kobe Bryant’s status, as he was reportedly feeling under the weather this morning. However, Kobe being Kobe, feeling under the weather wasn’t enough to keep him out of action and he was ready to go by tip off.
Coming off of a fatigue-ladened loss to Orlando on Sunday afternoon, the Los Angeles Lakers came into Charlotte searching for some love on Valentine’s Day as they looked to improve to 5-1 on their annual February road trip.
A pair of jumpers from Derek Fisher and Bryant helped the Lakers take an early 4-0 lead over the Bobcats. Boris Diaw broke the goose egg for the Bobcats, after he knocked down two free throws, but the Lakers’ “Twin Towers” of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol each scored to extend the Lakers’ lead to 8-2.
The Bobcats didn’t convert on their first field goal attempt until 3:57 into the first period, when Stephen Jackson sank a jumper, bring Charlotte within four, which Bryant responded to with a bucket of his own to make the score 10-4.
Although trailing by as much as six, the Bobcats fought back, and Diaw drained a pair of three’s to power a 8-2, knotting the game at 18 points.
After Gasol scored from two-feet to take back the lead, DJ Augustin drove in for a lay up to tie the game at 20. Capitalizing on the Lakers’ inability to score, former Laker Kwame Brown converted from mid-range to give the Bobcats their first lead of the night, 22-20.
Bynum quickly tied the game up with a close-range bucket of his own, but Brown scored right before time expired to give the Bobcats a two-point lead, 24-22, heading into the second period.
Gerald Wallace sank a triple to extend the Bobcats’ lead to five moments into the second quarter, which Luke Walton countered with a two-point basket of his own. Then, over the next three minutes, the Bobcats outscored the Lakers 8-2 to build their lead up to nine, 35-26.
Two made free throws by Bynum ended the run, but Charlotte’s Gerald Henderson countered with two free throws of his own, returning a nine-point lead to the Bobcats.
A quick 6-2 run by the Lakers brought them within five points, 39-35 and forced Charlotte Head Coach Paul Silas to call a time out, but the Bobcats came out of the break-in-the-action gunning, as they scored six unanswered points – increasing their lead to 11.
The Lakers outscored the Bobcats 9-4 to close out the first half, but the two teams headed to their locker rooms with Charlotte in the lead, 49-43.
Coming out of the break, Wallace took control of the Bobcats’ offense, nailing back-to-back long deuces and scoring his sixth straight point off of a basket inside.
A two-handed jam by Bryant followed by a free throw from Bynum cut the Lakers’ deficit to six, but Wallace scored his eighth point of the period and 17th of the game to put the Bobcats back up by eight.
Ron Artest converted on two free throws and Pau Gasol hit a 15-foot jumper to bring the Lakers back within six, but the Bobcats’ “tandem” of Diaw and Henderson combined to score Charlotte’s next 12 points – increasing their lead to 14, 71-57.
The Bobcats closed out the quarter in control, as Brown scored two buckets and Wallace nailed a triple as time expired, send the Lakers into the fourth and final period facing a 78-60 deficit.
The Lakers doomed themselves from the start of the fourth quarter, as they picked up six fouls in the first 1:30 of the period, putting the Bobcats in the bonus at the foul line for the remainder of the game.
After a three-point-play by Henderson gave the Bobcats a 21 point lead, the Bobcats’ reserves continued to keep a distant cushion on the scoreboard, as Shaun Livingston and Nazr Mohammed each converted on a pair of free throws to put Charlotte up by 23 with just over 10 minutes remaining.
The Bobcats didn’t even give the Lakers a window of opportunity to mount a comeback, and their hot shooting allowed them to coast to a 109-89 victory.
The loss was the Lakers’ eighth in 10 tries against Charlotte on the road, and it moved them to 38-18 on the season, while the Bobcats improved 24-31.
The Lakers were led by Bryant’s 20 points and Gasol’s 17 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. However, they struggled to get points from their reserves who only accounted for 27 of the Lakers 89 total points.
Despite the loss, Artest posted solid all-around numbers, scoring 10 points, pulling down five boards and dishing out five assists.
Wallace’s 20 points and 11 rebounds paced the Bobcats, who also received a considerable amount of support from the reserves, as Gerald Henderson and Nazr Mohammed combined for 34 points on 13 of 20 shooting.
The Lakers’ road trip will commence on Wednesday evening when they travel to Cleveland to take on the struggling Cavaliers at 4:30 p.m. PST.