The Los Angeles Lakers handled the New Orleans Hornets with ease Tuesday night at Staples Center.
Well, that was true in the first half before the Lakers went cold and made it interesting down the stretch. Ultimately, the better team won, and the players and coaches were happy to focus on their positive play, take the win and move on.
The Lakers led by 18 points with less than six minutes remaining. During the next four minutes, the Hornets went on a 21-4 run and closed within one point of the Lakers.
However, Kobe Bryant, who came up two rebounds shy of a triple-double, found Earl Clark for a crucial score. The Hornets did not give up, but they were never able to threaten taking over the lead again.
Clark, the throw-in player in the Dwight Howard trade, was the star on the night. He scored 20 points and led the team with 12 rebounds. After making the Bryant-assisted lay-up to put the Lakers up by three, Clark found Steve Nash for a three pointer to put the Lakers up by six.
In response, Eric Gordon hit a deep 3-pointer to bring the game back to three. Again, Clark assisted Jamison on a lay-up that effectively ended a contest that never felt as close as the 111-106 final score would indicate.
When asked if Tuesday was the best game he has ever played, Clark responded, "I could say that because it was an all-around game."
Clark's heroics were welcomed, but they should not have been necessary.
In the first half, the Lakers moved the ball brilliantly, and their brand of basketball was a joy to watch. Coach Mike D’Antoni has repeatedly said that he believes in the mantra: "If you move the ball, it finds energy."
The Lakers moved the ball, and the energy it found dispersed into the Staples Center crowd and spread into homes all across the southland. Although the game was up for grabs with two minutes to go, the Lakers were the superior team of the night.
To illustrate their growing unselfishness, the Lakers assisted on 34 of 39 made field goals against the Hornets.
They may have wasted half a season, but this collection of stars is transforming into a team—a good one, too. They have taken the first step to redeeming the season, but in order to make the playoffs, the Lakers need to win on the road.
The Lakers depart on a seven-game road trip on Wednesday, and LA has lost seven games in a row away from home. At this point, the team needs results more than anything else. To save the season, the Lakers must win away from home.