A night after making history in a good way, Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers nearly made history in a bad way.
Monday's game against the Indiana Pacers was over before it started. The Lakers had brought their bodies to Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, but their mental focus on both ends of the floor was waiting on the plane back to Los Angeles.
LA was bad to start the game, and that's probably the nicest way to put it. The Lakers managed more points from the foul line than they did from the field in the first quarter. Had a late flurry of free throws not helped the visitors to 15 points for the quarter, the Lakers looked on their way to setting a new mark for the worst quarter of the season.
In the opening 12 minutes, the Lakers shot 15 percent from the field as a team. Only three players even made a basket. Matching to the putrid offense, the Lakers failed defensively. After one quarter, the Lakers had already allowed 34 points and trailed by 19 points. The Lakers did not even have 19 points on the scoreboard at that point.
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Incomprehensibly, the second quarter was worse.
The Lakers fell behind by 39 points during that shocking second period. With a minute to go in the first half, the Lakers had only scored 21 points and allowed 60 points to a Pacers' team that had lost its previous eight games. If the Lakers had continued on that trend, they would have set the franchise record for fewest points in a half (23 points set in 2009). Instead, Bryant hit a three-pointer late in the half to avoid making history for the second night in a row.
Wesley Johnson would add a three-pointer before the halftime buzzer, and the Lakers would enter the locker room trailing 60-27. Prior to Bryant and Johnson hitting their shots, the Lakers were shooting 12 percent from the field. Even after two baskets, the Lakers shot a lowly 17 percent for the quarter and depressing 16 percent for the half.
The game was no longer a contest by the time the teams came back on the court for the second half.
Bryant had been as guilty as his teammates on both end of the floor in the painfully long first 24 minutes. In the first half, Bryant made three of 13 shots for seven points and recorded only one assist. Only three other Lakers even had a field goal to their names, so there was plenty of blame pie for all to share.
In the third period, the ultra-competitive 36-year-old attempted to give his team life by attacking the basket. Bryant would score 14 points in that quarter and add two steals and two assists to help guide the Lakers to 31 points over a 12-minute span. They played a normal quarter, and history had been averted. Bryant's Lakers still trailed by 31 points entering the fourth quarter, and he had 21 points at that point in the game.
Bryant's day was done. The Lakers would play their backups for the duration of the fourth quarter en route to a 110-91 loss.
"I didn't think we came ready mentally or physically," Lakers coach Byron Scott said afterwards on TWC Sportsnet. "We just got outplayed tonight."
After winning two of three games on the road, the Lakers will return home to face the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night at Staples Center.