The big, bad Charlotte Bobcats came to town and the Lakers didn’t even flinch.
Turns out the Bobcats aren’t very big and they’re really, really bad, but the Lakers will take any victory they can these days.
They rolled over Charlotte, 106-73, Tuesday at Staples Center, breaking the 100-point barrier for a second consecutive game, the first time that’s happened all season.
They also forgot their nagging inability to beat the Bobcats, moving to 7-8 all-time against them. The only other team with a winning record against the Lakers is Boston.
Before anybody claims the Lakers’ troubles have ended, it’s important to observe Charlotte’s record (3-19) and what awaits the Lakers — a six-game trip for a team with a 2-7 road record.
Also of note: The Lakers (13-9) led by 26 early in the third quarter and watched it get hacked to 11 before responding with a hail of three-point shots.
The Bobcats came into the game with the NBA’s second-worst defense, allowing 100.6 points on average, and didn’t disappoint Lakers fans.
Andrew Bynum was solid, scoring 20 points and taking 11 rebounds. The Lakers were surprisingly effective from three-point range, making 12 of 26 and temporarily brushing off their miserable 28.1% accuracy before Tuesday, tied for second-lowest in the league. They made seven of 10 three-pointers in the fourth quarter.
Has the Lakers’ offense finally arrived? No.
“I don’t know if anything has arrived for us yet,” Lakers Coach Mike Brown said. “But we are getting better.”
Kobe Bryant had 18 points in the first quarter but was cold after that, finishing with 24 points on nine-for-21 shooting. He tried to put away Charlotte with long-distance shots all night, making only two of 11 three-point attempts.
He should thank the Bobcats for providing a breather in this mess of a schedule. Bryant did not play in the fourth quarter and logged 27 minutes, his lowest of the season and more than 10 below his average.
“I’ve been running him fairly long,” Brown said. “It’s good to sit him like that every once in a while.”
The Lakers’ reserves totaled a season-high 48 points. Troy Murphy had 12, as did Andrew Goudelock, who is averaging 11.5 points in four games since becoming Derek Fisher’s backup.
“He’s a scorer,” Pau Gasol said. “He’s not afraid to shoot. He attacks. That’s what he knows to do best.”
It’s not overly surprising, but Metta World Peace didn’t do much in his second start at small forward, gathering more fouls (four) than points (two).
Bynum showed why he will almost surely be voted the Western Conference’s starting center in the All-Star game.
He made eight of 11 shots and had some spark on offense. He scored on a reverse layup after spinning past two defenders in the first quarter. He also put down two alley-oop dunks, one from Bryant and one from Gasol. “I thought Andrew was huge for us,” Brown said.
The Bobcats shot 34.8% and fell to 1-11 on the road. The Lakers’ largest margin of victory against them was a surprisingly low 11 points, but that’s no longer true.
Now the Lakers begin their longest trip this season, going to Denver, Utah, Philadelphia — three teams exceeding expectations — before hitting Boston, New York and Toronto, three teams in trouble.
It’s no secret the Lakers have been awful on the road. They’ll need to prove otherwise to climb up the West standings.