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Gasol returns, Lakers barely slip by Bobcats. But you can start to see the plan.

Dec 19, 2012, 2:25 AM EDT

Charlotte Bobcats v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

There are a couple ways Lakers fans will look their team barely escaping the Charlotte Bobcats with a 101-100 win Tuesday night.

Some will say “a win is a win and right now the Lakers need wins.” Plus they got Gasol back — he had 10 points, nine rebounds and four blocks but look rusty like you’d expect after missing eight games with knee tendonitis. His return improved the team in some areas, particularly interior defense (although he was clearly rusty).

Some will say “they barely beat the Bobcats and they suck.” And they are right too — the Lakers had to come from 18 back because their flaws of inconsistent offense and lazy transition were exposed by a team that came in losers of 11 straight. If this had been virtually any other NBA team, the Lakers would have lost.

But what you really started to see was Mike D’Antoni’s plans for this team taking shape — they went small for extended periods with Metta World Peace at the four and Kobe Bryant at the three, and D’Antoni said you will see a lot more of that. You saw a lot of Jodie Meeks (39 minutes) and pretty soon you could see him start at the two. You saw a lot of Dwight Howard or Pau Gasol but limited time with both of them. You even saw flashes of good defense. Just flashes but they were there.

Will all that come together and work? The Magic 8 Ball says “cannot predict now” and “ask again later.” And by later I mean about a month from now.

But it is becoming clear direction D’Antoni is taking the Lakers.

“I want (World Peace) at the four and we have to be able to change our team…” D’Antoni said after the game. “But for us to have a different team, a different look, Metta has to play the four.”

Or D’Antoni on Meeks, who had 17 points off the bench, hitting 5-of-12 from three.

“We are a different look when he is on the floor. He spreads the floor and he is always a three point shot ready to happen.”

The rotations are getting set and the Lakers are going smaller. Meeks says the team is good with that and adjusting (although of course he says that, he’s the guy getting more run).

“I thought it looked good,” Meeks said of the Lakers going small. “I think myself, Kobe, Darius Morris, Metta, we brought a lot of intensity when we got out there and it looked good.”

They did, and it saved the Lakers bacon in a game they really didn’t deserve to win.

Charlotte can really only do one thing well on offense — run in transition and go straight to the rim. They have athletes and a couple solid guards (Kemba Walker and Ramon Sessions). But stopping them isn’t complex.

However, the Lakers couldn’t do it for two and a half quarters — the Lakers transition defense was atrocious. Charlotte shot 57 percent in the second quarter and led 58-53 at the half. The Lakers went cold shooting in the 10 minutes of the second quarter, and that let the Bobcats run. That lead climbed up to 18 the third quarter as the Bobcats started to gain confidence, got to loose balls, kept knocking down shots, and even Michael Kidd-Gilchrist hit a jumper. The Lakers are not a good perimeter defensive team right now, not consistently, and Steve Nash is not going to fix that.

Credit the Bobcats for doing what coach Mike Dunlap had in the game plan — he said before the game he wanted to test the Lakers defense in transition and early in the shot clock, before Dwight Howard was planted in the paint. It worked. They executed it.

But when the Lakers went small and cranked up the intensity on defense — World Peace and Morris in particular started to play some perimeter defense — the Bobcats had no answer. They don’t have the talent to hang in. Los Angeles went on a 30-4 run and took the lead. Down the stretch it was a ballgame again.

Kobe Bryant bailed them out — he had the final four points (a driving layup and an elbow jumper coming off a Howard screen) and that was enough to hang on. Kobe scored 30 to lead everyone in this game.

The final play was a wild scramble where the Bobcats could have won – Kemba Walker drove but Howard blocked it, the ball went to Gerald Henderson whose putback layup rattled rolled around the rim and went out, then Byron Mullens missed a rushed shot in the paint to win it.

For Charlotte, it’s a moral victory. Which feels pretty hollow. But it’s a process for them to improve.

It wasn’t pretty for the Lakers, but it’s a win. And you can start to see what will be coming from them.

What we will find out is if that is enough.

  1. limonadamas - Dec 19, 2012 at 3:54 AM

    If it’s true that Metta’s going to play the four for extended periods of time, then it’s hard to imagine the Lakers will hold onto Pau past the deadline. Pau and Howard can’t just split time at the five if they’re going to be on the same roster. There aren’t enough minutes there to split for the amount of talent.

    It’s too bad too, because Pau is great at the five spot. If he had an Oakley-type next to him at the four, he’d look a lot better than he does now, out of position. Hopefully Dwight works himself back into game shape and becomes the Dwight we all seem to remember because he still looks a step slow to me.

    • barkley4life - Dec 19, 2012 at 8:35 AM

      Not necessarily if that is Metta at the stretch 4 is a play then it makes more sense to keep Gasol. When Howard sits for stretches Gasol can be the back to the basket post that the Lakers will need.

      If that’s D’Antonis setup then it makes sense to keep him then to trade him because your really not going to get anything back for him that will significantly help.

      The key will be Nash’s health. If he returns and gets injured again the Lakers will be forced to give up Gasol for a PG like Calderon in Toronto. They wont be able to beat teams with a Duhon/Morris/Meeks backcourt.

  2. abchome - Dec 19, 2012 at 4:01 AM

    Metta World Peace as “stretch four”? That’s a stretch! lol

  3. hoodheisman - Dec 19, 2012 at 4:06 AM

    The Lakers will never beat the Heat or OKC playing small ball. They need both 7-footers on the court at the same time to attack the weakness of both those teams. Lakers don’t have the athleticism or the coaching to play that style. Damn shame. Phil Jackson would have won 2 titles in 3 years with this squad. D’Antoni will be fired after this season. Look how much better the Knicks are without him. The Lakers will be swept in the 1st round playing small ball (that’s assuming they even make the post season).

  4. fruitcovejag - Dec 19, 2012 at 5:18 AM

    Great win Lakers! lol Love reading about all of the close wins against some of the worst teams in the NBA. Keep it up!

    • fanofevilempire - Dec 19, 2012 at 6:45 AM

      hey fruit boy, don’t be mad you root for a loser and they lost again.
      good luck with the hornets, at least the Lakers have a shot at the playoffs.

      oh boy!

  5. BigBeachBall - Dec 19, 2012 at 6:56 AM


  6. magicbucs - Dec 19, 2012 at 8:28 AM

    Bahahaha the lakers barely beat the bobcats at home and I mean barely. The lakers have less chance to make the playoffs than the magic do.
    You can say a win is a win but the look on dwights face after the game looked like they just lost the game. It should be troubling that they had to rely on the bobcats being so bad that they miss 2 shots at the rim in the final 7 seconds to win.

    • tujefablows - Dec 19, 2012 at 2:41 PM

      Magic? Playoffs…..that’s funny. It’s good to be hopeful. I bet you didn’t hate the Lakers until D. Howard left or was it when Lakers smashed the Magic in the finals?

  7. omniusprime - Dec 19, 2012 at 9:04 AM

    If Dumbtoni’s plan for the Lakers is to have MWP playing the 4 then he’s an even bigger moron than I thought. While the last second victory is good, what’s bad is the last second victory against a sorry team like the Bobcats who had lost 11 previous before last night. Sorry I’m not impressed one bit by Dumbtoni and his idiot plan.

    Good that Pau got back into the lineup. Now the Lakers have their twin towers back. Only an idiot would trade Gasol away. Good to see Meeks coming along, he’ll be needed to play defense when Ancient Nash fails utterly at doing so.

    That big drop in the middle of the game shows us the monumental failure that is Dumbtoni, he just can’t inspire this team to greatness. To think we could be having Phil Jackson coaching this team and we Laker fans would know we’re going to win another championship this coming June. With Dumbtoni we’ll be lucky to get past the first round.

    Fire Dumbtoni!!! We Want Phil!!! Go Lakers!!!

  8. money2long - Dec 19, 2012 at 9:15 AM

    if la was winning, the whole ‘can pau play with dwight, or are they complementary’ would not have even come up.

    ppl just search out what they think is wrong when the losses start piling. where was all this talk when bynum was there? it wasn’t there because they won 2 straight chips

    • limonadamas - Dec 19, 2012 at 3:59 PM

      Not true… When LA was winning chips, Bynum was hurt and/or limited, and Odom was playing the four a lot, alongside of Gasol. Once Bynum started playing a bigger role, the Lakers stopped winning. It’s about spacing and skill sets.

      • manchestermiracle - Dec 19, 2012 at 8:39 PM

        From what alternate universe did you pull that out of your ass? The last two Laker championships were ’08/’09 and ’09/’10. Bynum played in all 23 games in both playoff years (he started all the games in ’09/’10) and was a major contributor. He averaged 17.4 minutes per game in ’08/’09 and 24.4 in ’09/’10. C’mon, this stuff is easily Googled.

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