Unfortunately for the Lakers, they recovered in time to play.
Richardson had 34 points and 10 rebounds, Felton added 13 points and 10 assists, and the lowly Bobcats stunned the Lakers 108-95 on Wednesday night in a game where Kobe Bryant drew two technical fouls in a span of 29 seconds late in the fourth quarter and was ejected.
Bryant has 15 technicals, and one more means an automatic one-game suspension.
Usually accessible, the Lakers star left Staples Center without speaking to reporters. Coach Phil Jackson wasn’t much help, either.
“Well, I may look like I’m here to explain something, but I have nothing to explain,” Jackson said. “I can’t explain it, so don’t ask me any questions. It just looked like we were out of character, tremendously out of character, in more ways than one—irrational play at times, inconsistent at best, but just some poor judgments, poor decisions.”
When a reporter asked about Bryant, Jackson smiled, stood up and left the interview room.
The loss dropped the Lakers (49-23) into a three-way tie for second place in the Western Conference with Houston and San Antonio. They trail the New Orleans Hornets by one game.
“Our defense was terrible from the start,” Lakers forward Luke Walton said. “Every team has talented players. If you don’t show up ready to play, that’s what’s going to happen. There’s no excuse for us to come out on our homecourt and not take care of business.”
Matt Carroll added 18 points and Gerald Wallace had 15 points, eight rebounds and seven assists for the Bobcats (26-56), who won for just the second time in eight games and snapped a six-game road losing streak. Emeka Okafor had 11 points and 11 rebounds for Charlotte, which outrebounded the Lakers 52-40.
Bryant had 27 points and six rebounds before leaving with 3:40 left and the Bobcats in control. Lamar Odom had 18 points and nine rebounds, Ronnie Turiaf scored 12 and Sasha Vujacic and Walton added 11 each for the Lakers.
“No excuses, they deserved it,” Odom said. “They played better than us tonight.”
Lakers center Pau Gasol missed his seventh straight game with a sprained left ankle. He said before the game he aggravated the injury earlier this week, and hopes to return by next Wednesday.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s not until Wednesday that he plays again,” Jackson said. “We’re hopeful it’s Sunday. We’ll have to let time take its course.”
Richardson and Felton said before the game they got sick after eating breakfast.
“From what I understand, a few of the guys had something to eat and it disrupted their stomach,” Bobcats coach Sam Vincent said beforehand. “We’re trying to treat it as a non-issue.”
It was the Lakers who felt sick afterward.
“I thought from the beginning of the game, the guys had a real sharp focus to come in here and play hard for 48 minutes, offensively and defensively, and it was a focus sometimes we have and more often than not, we don’t have,” Vincent said afterward. “The game just turned out our way tonight.”
The Lakers scored the first 10 points of the final period to move within four points, and a 3-pointer by Vujacic made it 84-81 with 7:45 remaining.
But that’s as close as the Lakers would get. The Bobcats responded with a 16-5 run for a 100-86 lead with 3:40 to play. Carroll’s four-point play capped the spurt, and that’s when Bryant was kicked out for protesting a foul call.
“He just started yelling at the ref,” Carroll said. “I don’t know what was said. They teed him up and that was it.”
When asked if Bryant fouled him, Carroll replied with a smile: “It was a good call.”
Richardson scored five points and Wallace added a 3-pointer in an 8-2 run to start the second half, giving the Bobcats a 65-46 lead. Bryant scored the Lakers’ first 15 points of the third quarter, including five straight before a layup by Odom moved Los Angeles within eight points.
The Bobcats then outscored the Lakers 13-7 for an 82-68 lead entering the final period.
The Bobcats, coming off a 128-106 loss at Utah on Tuesday night, were clearly the better team in taking a 57-44 halftime lead. The Lakers drew within three points before Charlotte extended the lead to 13 in the final 52.3 seconds of the second period on 3-pointers by Carroll, Richardson and Felton and a foul shot by Richardson.
The Bobcats have won four of their last five games against the Lakers. … Odom entered having gotten at least 20 rebounds in two straight games, becoming the first Lakers player to accomplish that feat since Vlade Divac did it in 1995. … The Bobcats are 19-17 at home, but just 7-28 on the road.