Just under four minutes had elapsed in the third quarter. Pau Gasol glides to the rim with a layup opportunity served him on a silver platter by Luke Walton, the feed perfectly timed so El Spaniard would catch the ball positioned in front of the rim with absolutely no defenders presenting a challenge. In basketball parlance, they refer to such shots as a "bunny."
A hare timid about a trip down the ol' rabbit hole, as it were.
Symbolic of the Lakers' evening as a whole, Gasol's shot didn't fall.
That moment embodied everything making this eventual 99-97 victory an exercise in frustration. Not to mention jaw-dropping predictability, at least as games against the Bobcats go.
It's now viewed as an inexplicable given contests between these teams will end up an excursion through the mud. The Lakers traditionally have been armed with flashy names, postseason pedigree out the wazoo, and history growing richer by the second. The Bobcats have never reached the playoffs in their five seasons of existence and the franchise's first All-Star, Gerald Wallace, missed tonight's showdown with a hamstring injury.
No matter. Once again, we were treated to a street fight.
Charlotte maintained its uncanny ability to provide fits for Kobe and the Gang. The only surprise, really, was the final score, as the purple and gold came out on top for just the second time in seven games. But not before overcoming some brutal stretches.
The Lakers shot 35 percent during the first quarter and watched Charlotte make hay converting those empty possessions into buckets. Bryant and Gasol joined forces for a paltry ten points during the first half, making just four of 15 total shots from the floor. (Bryant's night grew worse after Lamar Odom accidentally stepped on his ankle in the closing seconds of the first half. Mamba finished with just five points and a lot fourth quarter minutes spent on the bench.) Ron Artest and Derek Fisher got into foul trouble. Shannon Brown had six assists, but missed eight shots in 11 tries. Even Andrew Bynum, who connected on eight out of 14 shots and collected 14 rebounds, whiffed on a few early gift-wrapped moments.
Save LO, whose monster second half (13 points, five rebounds) was the ultimate bacon-saver, nobody really had a completely easy go at things.
Oddly enough, though Wednesday may have been a brick layer's convention, the foundation was built in earnest. The Lakers managed to find more consistently clean looks than we've seen quite some time. Shots were rarely forced, often created by good ball movement and typically launched from mid-range or closer. Heck, often at the rim. They just didn't fall. As I said during the Dime Chat, the Lakers didn't take many "bad shots," but they did take a lot of literally bad shots.
There were a few "highlight reel" moments scattered about and the game ironically kicked off with Artest cutting for an effortless reverse layup off a gorgeous no-look from Pau. But mostly, it was an affair muddled through sans style-points. Like I said, a street fight.
And when it's all said and done, the only goal of such skirmishes is to survive, then fight another day. Along those lines, mission accomplished.