To hell and back in three hours: How the Lakers ruined, then saved their season in one game

Even if this most absurd of years, the Lakers’ win over Oklahoma City today has to rank somewhere between unlikely and flat out miraculous.

I mean, here I was, all ready to flip my lid over Metta’s meltdown, convinced that his 2nd Quarter braining of James Harden had essentially flushed the whole season down the toilet, when fate, Kobe Bryant and the continued immaturity of Andrew Bynum all conspired to save the day.


In case you didn’t see what old, crazy RonRon pulled today…

Nothing new about Artest losing his mind but fuck, there’s something to say about timing and really, his couldn’t have been more calamitous. After a dramatic uptick in his play this month, we get this. Not only is he likely suspended for at least the first round of the playoffs,  but there went whatever momentum he had.

Of course, the Thunder surged to a 16 point lead at the end of the third quarter and I was left to ponder what a mess the Lakers had suddenly become. In the span of a few days they had gone from a probable third seed and a match-up with either Dallas or Denver to  the fourth or fifth seed and the possibility of having to play Memphis as the road team.  After 64 games and too many up’s and down’s to count, they had an unceremonious first round exit staring them right in the face.

Of course, it didn’t turn out that way in the end, thanks to Kobe Bryant, Jordan Hill and whatever was going on with Bynum. I’m sure the Bynum situation will be clarified in the days to come, but all we need to know now is that Hill, chained to the bench since being acquired for Laker hero Derek Fisher, came up with a 14 point, 15 rebound 3 block effort that at the very least has earned him a spot in the rotation, and just might have changed the course of the entire season.


Trust me when I tell you that this was a game they just had to have. Little things like this sometimes have a way of meaning a whole lot in hindsight. Sure, In the end you still have to beat who they put in front of you, but it never hurt anyone to get matchups that work in your favor.

As far as today went, it was a pretty good reminder of two things: Kobe Bryant, rusty as he may have looked for three quarters, still has a rabbit or two left in his hat, and as good as the Thunder are, they still have a star point guard who is capable of an epic implosion at any moment. As fabulously dangerous as Russell Westbrook is, he’s also got a habit of putting up ghastly performances like today’s 3-22 outing. If anything is really standing in OKC’s way, that would have to be it.

As far as Metta goes, I’m sure I’m not the only guy that thinks Matt Barnes has been world’s better this season (yes, pun was intended), and Devin Ebanks looked just fine today. Could be addition by subtraction, honestly. Jordan Hill also turned in a better performance than either Troy Murphy or Josh McRoberts has mustered all season, and if he’s got any more of those left in him, their chances improve that much more.

So at the end of the day the Lakers managed to avert a major crisis, but they are hardly out of the woods or anything. Still, for now you can thank Kobe and and Hill for pulling this game out of the fire, and holding onto whatever precious momentum they had built in the second half of this season.

Now the real season begins, and with the Lakers as sturdy as they’ve been all year.

It could have been so much worse. It almost was.

-John Hathwell


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