The Los Angeles Lakers lost on Wednesday night, but this loss did not seem as though it hurt as much as others.
No, the Lakers aren't numb to feeling pain from a loss already. Instead, this team played well and showed great fight against one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference considering the circumstances. The circumstances being that the Lakers were playing their third game in the last four days, each of those games were held in different cities, and Wednesday night's game was on the second night of a back-to-back.
Add in that the Washington Wizards are sitting second in the Eastern Conference and are widely considered one of the elite teams in the East, and the Lakers looked more competitive that most would have predicted.
In the game, Kobe Bryant led the way with 29 points in 24 minutes. Nick Young, who was openly looking forward to playing his former team, also added 21 points off the Lakers' bench. On this night, the Lakers' second unit was worthy of time in the spotlight. LA's bench outscored the Wizards' bench by 20 points.
In contrast, the Wizards' starters, namely John Wall, Bradley Beal and Marcin Gortat, displayed exactly why the Wizards aren't considered a fluke. Wall set the climate of the offense by passing off 15 assists and scoring 18 points. Meanwhile, Beal kept Bryant and the Lakers' backcourt honest with 27 points and seven assists of his own.
Gortat's efficient 21 points on 13 shots led directly to the Wizards' dominance under the basket. Along with out-rebounding the Lakers by 10, the Wizards' outscored the Lakers 56 to 20 in the paint. That was a staggering statistic, but ultimately, the Lakers were not played off the floor for most of the night.
In fact, several players stated that the team had "turned a corner" and did not take the loss to be nearly as demoralizing as other losses.
In the flow of the game, Bryant came out early and provided the Lakers a necessary lift in the first quarter. In the second period, the Lakers increased their lead to 11 points before dropping their hands and going into the locker room down by two points. In all too predictable a third quarter, the Lakers were staring at a double-digit deficit early in the fourth quarter.
In the final quarter, though, the Lakers battled to make it a four-point game with 2:05 to play. From there on out, Bryant a couple minutes of forgettable basketball. First, he missed a long three-pointer that immediately led to a transition bucket. Then, he turned the ball over, and the Wizards immediately ran down and finished with a dunk. Finally, Bryant fouled Wall on four-point play to cap of a nightmare finish for the purple and gold.
When the red lights lit up for the final time, the scoreboard read 111-95. The game was closer than the final score, but this one was still a loss, the Lakers' 14th loss in 19 games.
Notes: Jeremy Lin was benched for the fourth quarter and finished with 0 points with 0/10 shooting and 0/6 on 3-pointers. Lin added five assists and four turnovers. Ronnie Price played at point guard for the entire fourth quarter and finished perfect from the field. Price was 4/4 for the game and 3/3 from behind the three-point line.
Post-game Quote: "We just need more guys to join the party. We don't have the luxury to have 2 or 3 guys not play good games... Tonight, [Jeremy Lin] just had an awful night. That's just basketball." - Lakers coach Byron Scott after the game on TWC Sportsnet.