Phil Jackson surpassed Pat Riley for most coaching wins in Lakers history last night, but this was not the way they have won most of their games under the Zen Master. Kobe Bryant had a season-low five points (his previous low was 10) and the offense never looked in sync all night. But the Lakers prevailed, beating the Bobcats 99-97.
The Bobcats are playing well this season and no team should overlook them - especially not the Lakers. The Lakers had lost six out of seven to the Bobcats. They are one of just two teams to have a winning record against them (the Celtics are the other). But the Lakers did get the benefit of the Bobcats being without their All-Star Gerald Wallace who sat out the game with a hamstring injury.
This was an ugly game from start to finish. It's not that either team had many turnovers or that either team was shooting poorly, there was just never any flow to the game and that's exactly how the Bobcats like it. The Bobcats are holding opponents to 94 points per game which is good for third in the league. They get teams out of their comfort zone and don't give up anything easy. They were physical with the Lakers bigs and they won the battle of the boards 45-38, despite LA being second in the league in rebounding.
It certainly helped the Bobcats' cause that Kobe Bryant got injured (again). Just before the end of the half, Lamar Odom stepped on Bryant's left foot and Kobe twisted his already sore ankle when he pulled it out from under Lamar's foot. He went to the locker room and played in the second half but was severely limited. Bryant was already having an off-night hitting just one of his first eight shots. He finished two of 12 and scoring just five points.
Someone needed to fill the scoring void left by Kobe and the most likely candidate is Pau Gasol. Gasol had recently complained that he wasn't getting enough touches and that the offense would be much better if the Lakers went into the post more often. They made a conscious effort to do that last night but it wasn't all that effective. Gasol was a mediocre six for 13 for 14 points. He did add five assists and three blocks but he didn't pick up the scoring load. Andrew Bynum had a solid game hitting eight of 14 for 17 points and 14 rebounds but he had just five points and five boards after halftime.
Usually the Lakers need two of their big three of Bryant, Gasol and Bynum to have good games in order to win, but last night the entire team pulled together to make up for Kobe's scoring absence. Lamar Odom hit eight of 10 shots for 19 points, Ron Artest had 14, Shannon Brown had 10, and Jordan Farmar added nine. It wasn't the finely-tuned finesse offense Lakers' fans are used to but it got it done.