One look at the Los Angeles Lakers’ starting lineup for Friday’s matchup with the Charlotte Hornets, and you knew it was going to be an uphill battle. Without LeBron James or Anthony Davis, the bulk of the scoring and playmaking duties fell on the shoulders of Russell Westbrook, who has had a polarizing first season in L.A., to say the least.
After a dismal first half in which he only scored five points and was a minus-27 in the box score, Westbrook exploded for 30 points in the second half to bring the Lakers within striking distance in an eventual 117-114 loss to the Hornets. The 30 second-half points were the most for a Laker in a half since Kobe Bryant in his final NBA game. Bryant scored 38 points in the second half against the Utah Jazz on April 13, 2016, as he finished with 60 points on the emotional night. Just two days after the two-year anniversary of Bryant’s death, Friday night was the first time Westbrook had scored 30 points in a half since March of 2017.
“When the team needs me to do it, I’m able to still do it. That’s the most important part,” said Westbrook, whose 35 points were a season-high. “The unfortunate part is we didn’t win the game. But, with my teammates, those guys give me confidence to be aggressive and make the right reads. So it was good to kind of get that going.”
Westbrook’s flurry helped the Lakers erase a 20-point third-quarter deficit, as they trailed by just two points heading into the final frame. With the Lakers behind by nine with 2:37 left in the game, Westbrook scored 10 straight points, including two 3-pointers, to cut the Charlotte lead to three with just under a minute remaining. As Westbrook scored bucket after bucket, the ESPN cameras cut to Hornets owner Michael Jordan, who couldn’t believe his eyes.
After a putback layup by Lakers forward Stanley Johnson brought the Lakers within a point, Jordan could no longer watch.
A free throw by Hornets guard LaMelo Ball extended Charlotte’s lead to 116-114, and the Lakers had possession with just under 10 seconds remaining. The ball, of…