Originally posted on In The Neutral Zone  |  Last updated 3/7/13
Kobe Bryant and Jodi Meeks celebrate after a key dunk in Wednesday night’s victory over the Charlotte Hornets. (Via) The Los Angeles Lakers looked deflated in the second quarter on Wednesday night as they took on the New Orleans Hornets in New Orleans Arena. The Lakers, just one day removed from letting the Oklahoma City Thunder trample all over them on their way to scoring a season-high 71 points in the first half, allowed the lowly Hornets to score 67 points in the first half, many of them coming in the 39-point second quarter. Facing a seemingly insurmountable 18-point deficit heading into the 4th quarter and the thought of back-to-back losses, the Lakers’ chances of making the playoffs appeared to fade.  But when your team has Kobe Bryant nearly any comeback is possible. For instance, on February 8th, with little more than five minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Lakers erased a huge 20-point deficit against the Bobcats in Charlotte to win comfortably by a score of 100-93. So as the fourth quarter began against the Hornets on Wednesday night, it’s not hard to imagine Kobe staring up at the scoreboard and an 18-point gap and saying confidently to his teammates, “I got this.” However, I’m sure everyone thought the Lakers would make a valiant and admirable push towards winning but inevitably fall short of winning the game. The best moments in sports are made from defying those sorts of expectations. Kobe Bryant has made a career of defying expectations and overcoming obstacles. So he dug into the challenge and surprised everybody. To say that Kobe Bryant was magnificent in the second half is a little bit of an understatement. Kobe had been averaging slightly over 18 points in the second half during the last few games. On Wednesday night he scored 25 points — with 13 of them coming in the fourth quarter. Overall, Kobe Bryant had 42 points on 14 for 21 shooting (66%), 12 assists, and finished the game with 7 rebounds — 3 short of a triple double. The bigger shock though, when you think about it, is how badly the Hornets imploded. The Hornets put up 39 points in the second quarter against the Lakers. In the fourth quarter, they only managed to score 9 points. That’s right: the Hornets scored 30 more points in the second quarter than they did in the fourth quarter. The Hornets were so bad offensively that they failed to score in the last 6:22 of the game. The Lakers experienced more good fortune than their spectacular comeback as the Houston Rockets and the Utah Jazz both lost close games. The Rockets, currently the seventh seed, now lead the Lakers by 2 games and the Jazz, the eighth seed, only lead the Lakers by 1.5 games. With two tough road games coming up for the Jazz against the Bulls Friday and the Knicks Saturday and the Lakers hosting the Toronto Raptors in LA on Friday, the Lakers could be tied for the eighth spot as soon as Saturday. With a challenging but doable victory over the visiting Bulls on Sunday, the Lakers could finally enter the playoff picture.
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