If there was ever a setup for a schedule loss, this would have been one, with the Bobcats on the road on the opposite side of the country, a situation they offered them many wins. (EDIT: And earlier version of this story said this was the second game of a back-to-back. It is the first game of a back-to-back. We apologize for the mistake.) At the same time, these Los Angeles Lakers don't really do any one thing well. They're an averaging shooting and rebounding team, but are second-to-last in opponent's points per game, also making them one of the worst defensive teams in the league. Alright, so the Bobcats had a few good things going for them coming into this game despite their schedule.
Neither team came out of the gate particularly strong, and until the eight minute mark neither team topped the four-point mark before a pair of Jodie Meeks free throws gave the Lakers a short, temporary lead. Gerald Henderson responded with a layup of his own and the Bobcats were ultimately able to seize momentum with a Josh McRoberts layup off of an Al Jefferson feed. Jefferson would begin his special scoring night late in this quarter as he scored nine points in the final 2:30 to give Charlotte a 31-27 lead.
Sustaining their strong first quarter finish was going to be crucial in determining the outcome of this game, and they rattled off a 14-7 run as the Bobcats pushed their lead to 11 halfway through the second quarter. The Bobcats didn't just rely on one player, either. They received contributions from up and down the bench from guys like Jannero Pargo, Bismack Biyombo and Chris Douglas-Roberts. Of course Jefferson, Henderson and McRoberts would leave their own impressions and the Bobcats eventually carried a 62-49 advantage into the break.
The Lakers, insisting on not fixing what is already broken, came out of the intermission shooting 1-for-10 from the field. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist singlehandedly had a 7-0 run to push the lead to 19 with 7:07 remaining in the frame. Despite this strong run, the Lakers would eventually cut the lead back to 12 off of a Ryan Kelley four-point play to finish the quarter.
With a dwindling lead on the road, the Bobcats were going to need to tighten things up down the stretch if they hoped to emerge victorious. So they did, eventually. After a slow start to the fourth, Jefferson took over, scoring 10 of the team's first 12 points to push the lead back out to 14. The Lakers were hard-pressed for an answer to Jefferson as he finessed his way around their frontcourt with ease all night. Even when he saw good defense, Jefferson used his magnificent footwork to create just enough space to get his shot off, and he was the reason the Bobcats were able to hang on to this one. Jefferson would go on to finish the quarter with 18 points alone and the Bobcats moved to 21-27 on the year.
Jefferson continued his brilliant play finishing with 18 rebounds and four assists to complement his 40 point performance, tying a career-high. He also set the Bobcats franchise high for points in a game and tied himself with Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant for being the only two players with three consecutive games with at least 30 points and 10 rebounds. Perhaps most importantly, though: the Bobcats matched last season's win total on January 31st.
The most amusing aspect of this game was the Twitter surprise of Lakers fans that they were losing to the Bobcats even though the Bobcats have literally (not figuratively) been a better team all season long. Which just goes to show you how things have changed, but also how some fans like to hold onto the past without observing the present.