The Los Angeles Lakers (43-19) look for sweet revenge against a team that has given them problems for the last 6 seasons. Since the 2005-2006 season the Charlotte Bobcats (26-34) have gone 8-2 against L.A, most recently a Valentines Day massacre, winning by 20 at Charlotte.
This Lakers team is definitely more focused than the one the Bobcats played last month, since the all-star break they are 5-0 with the key to success certainly coming from defensive intensity, holding opponents to an average of 88ppg, while scoring a touch under 100ppg themselves. Bryant has been the catalyst, since receiving his all-star MVP award he’s averaged 25.8 points and shot a sizzling .446% from the field.
It’s important for Bryant and the Lakers to be on the same page, there are 20 games left in the regular season and they are about to play 4 games in 8 days, all on the road, with the first of four on Sunday against the league leading San Antonio Spurs, a team who dismantled the Miami Heat this evening at home. L.A then travels to Atlanta and plays a Hawks team they beat by 24 two weeks at Staples. The third of four is a revenge game against the Heat, who embarrassed the Lakers at home on Christmas day. Finally they travel to Dallas, the only other undefeated team since all-star break, and currently two games ahead of the Lakers in the Western conference standings.
This is most likely this is the last game Phil Jackson will coach against the Bobcats, who are part owned by Michael Jordan, a player Jackson coached for 9 seasons winning 6 NBA championships. He and the Lakers definitely want payback for the loss earlier this season and would love to go out with a bang against Charlotte.
Bryant took full advantage of the rookie Gerald Henderson who had the task of guarding the Mamba. Henderson overplayed everything; this was probably due to the excitement of recently being inserted into the Bobcats starting Lineup and featured as a defensive stopper. Henderson is a very active athletic player; exactly the kind Bryant likes toying with. He showed this with an array of jab steps, ball fakes, and exquisite moves to the basket. Kobe abused Henderson finishing with 27 points in 31 minutes. The Lakers went on a 17-2 run towards the end of the first quarter and never looked back. Up as much as 17 in the third, Jackson sat most of the starters during the fourth.
Andrew Bynum anchored the defense finishing with 9 points, 17 rebounds, and a season high 6 blocks. Gasol added 20, 10, and 2 himself. When the Lakers bigs play well, they are a tough team to beat. They hope to continue the defensive effort at San Antonio on Sunday.