The Lakers did the unthinkable Wednesday night: they trailed the New Orleans Hornets by 25 points.
Then, they brought a bit of Hollywood to New Orleans as they erased an 18-point fourth quarter deficit to beat the New Orleans Hornets in the most improbable of fashions.
During the crucial stretch, Kobe Bryant ran the offense, and Dwight Howard controlled the defense. Wednesday night was a rare example of the Lakers dominating in the style just about everyone had envisioned at the start of the season -- except that the Lakers have rarely displayed this level of defensive dominance.
Howard finished the game with 20 points, 15 rebounds, four blocks and three steals. Arguably, no play was more important than Howard’s emphatic stuff of Robin Lopez with 27 seconds remaining in a two-point ball game
Howard’s activity and energy never waned during the course of the game, but his second quarter foul trouble allowed the Hornets to open up a 25-point lead before the half.
By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, the Lakers trailed by 18 points.
In the fourth quarter, Howard played all but two seconds, and the big man understood that the Lakers’ only hope was to stop the Hornets from scoring. His defense helped hold the Hornets to only nine points on 17 percent shooting over the final 12 minutes of the game.
Howard’s presence on the defensive end was impossible to ignore. He only shot 1-3 in the deciding period, but his three blocks and eight rebounds emphasized his focus—defense.
Offensively, Kobe Bryant did what only Kobe Bryant can do.
Bryant’s 42 points, 12 assists, and seven rebounds were gaudy enough without noting that he shot 14-21 from the field. Yup, Kobe had 42 points 21 shot attempts. How about that for the “he shoots too much” crowd?
Even better, Bryant carried the Lakers’ offense during crunch time with a near-perfect fourth quarter.
The 34-year-old scored 18 points on 7-8 shooting and passed off four assists in the final 12 minutes. Three of his four assists were to Jodie Meek, the Lakers three-point specialist.
Meeks finished with 19 points, 12 of which came in the final period. The 25-year-old out of Kentucky shot 4-4 from distance during the fourth quarter comeback and was integral to the cause.
How dominant were the Lakers during the comeback?
With 6:47 remaining in the game, the Hornets led 102-88. LA scored the final 20 points of the game and won 108-102.
If Bryant and Howard can play together like this more often, the playoffs suddenly look promising. Speaking of playoffs, the Lakers are back at .500 and only 1.5 behind Utah for the final spot.
What a difference one quarter makes.