Pau Gasol returns, but Kobe Bryant lifts Lakers over lowly Bobcats

December 19, 2012

Kobe Bryant is the recipient of a foul by Brendan Haywood. (Jeff Gross / Getty Images)

“Lakers Hang On to Edge Bobcats, 101-100″

On the one hand, the Los Angeles Lakers have won three in a row. On the other hand, they had to “hang on to edge the Bobcats.”

It’s an “alarming Lakers season, a chaotic campaign in which expectations and reality have been about as close to each other as Phil Jackson and Jim Buss,” USA Today’s Sam Amick writes, summing it up about as well as anyone.

“There’s some bright sides to it,” Lakers Coach Mike D’Antoni said of the win, “there’s also some dark sides that we have to work on.”

Well, yes. Like the fact that the Bobcats (7-17) lost their 12th straight game on a missed layup at the end. That’s un-Lakers-like. But for a team that’s on its third system this season and doesn’t really have the pieces for this one, it’s a bright side. The one constant has been Kobe Bryant, who finished with 30 points, the seventh consecutive game in which he has had at least 30. Over that span, the Lakers are 3-4.

“I’m just hoping this whole Benjamin Button thing doesn’t wear off,” Bryant joked. 

At least not for two more games. The 12-14 Lakers play at Golden State (17-8) on Saturday and host the New York Knicks (18-6) on Christmas Day. 

“We managed to stick together. We could have folded, but we didn’t,” Bryant said. “We stayed together and played hard.”

The Lakers trailed by 18 late in the third quarter in the Staples Center, but roared (using the word loosely) back to outscore Charlotte 39-20 over the last 17 minutes, 30 seconds.

Jodie Meeks and Metta World Peace each had 17 points and Pau Gasol, returning after an eight-game absence because of tendinitis in his knees, had 10 points and nine rebounds in 30 minutes. Gasol, who assured of sticking with the Lakers, told Amick that there’s still uncertainty about how he and Dwight Howard will co-exist in D’Antoni’s spread offense.

“I don’t find [playing with Howard] tough,” Gasol told Amick. “It’s more the system right now that makes it tough at times, because he wants four guys to be spread and one interior guy and it’s a guard-oriented system, so that makes it tough.

“I think there’s enough looks for both of us. But again, it’s not a system that you post up a lot, so we’ll see. We’ve just got to figure it out, but if you’ve got two great post-up players, you’ve got to utilize it.”

Gasol’s performance was enough to warrant keeping him on the team, the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Plaschke says the team should adjust to Gasol, not trade him:

Gasol’s return … reminded me how sick I am of hearing folks say the Lakers would be better off without him.

No, the Lakers would be better off with a system that fits him. They would be better off with a game plan that accommodates him. You don’t trade him. You work with him. You adjust around him. You win with him, which is exactly what they did Tuesday night.

The Lakers may get Steve Nash, who has been out since the second game of the season with a non-displaced leg fracture, into the mix Saturday or Tuesday. 

“It’s close,” D’Antoni said. “A lot of it will be determined Thursday and Friday when he actually goes five-on-five and plays two hard practices and [team officials] see how he is. From there, he’ll determine when he needs to go.”

Follow @CindyBoren on Twitter and on Facebook.

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After spending most of her career in traditional print sports journalism, Cindy began blogging and tweeting, first as NFL/Redskins editor, and, since August 2010, at The Early Lead. She also is the social media editor for Sports.
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Cindy Boren | December 19, 2012