Sportswriters and cynical fans all across the country pronounced the Lakers all but dead entering the all-star break after a mystifying loss to the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers, but since then the Lakers have gone 13-1 and look like the two-time defending champions again. Newport Beach’s own Kobe Bryant is having another terrific year, and is beginning to find his balance between being a scorer like Michael and a distributor like Magic.
The Lakers stumbled into the all-star break losing three in a row to Orlando, Charlotte, and Cleveland. Everybody said they were getting too old and their run was over, but Kobe and the gang never bought into that. They’ve always received heavy criticism for being “bored” during the early parts of the season and only truly showing up for games once the important ones start, which is a ridiculous notion to me.
No team is OK with losing. I refuse to believe that.
Everybody acts like the lackadaisical play was vintage Lakers, but that’s not true. The three-peat team earlier this decade didn’t start slowly and turn it on come May. They were trying to break the Bulls single-season win record every season, in addition to winning a championship. This start-weak-end-strong theory is something new.
Whatever the case, the Lakers are finally starting to gel and are showing the league what lockdown defense, two 7-footers in the paint, the best coach in the history of the game, and the best closer in the league can really do. During this 13-1 stretch, Andrew Bynum and the defense have been playing especially well.
They seem to be remembering that this is a team game and while a single person can greatly affect a game, one guy can’t go out there every night and win it for you. After winning a triple-overtime game this week against the Suns, the Lakers continued to roll and tonight will take on the Blakers, I mean the Clippers.
If this really is Phil’s last season coaching the Lakers it’s shaping up to be a good one. With the playoffs coming in the middle of next month, the Lakers are clicking at just the right time. Similar to a hockey team riding a hot goalie into the playoffs, the Lakers are shoring up their pick-and-roll defense and shots are falling much more often than they had been.
Sizing up the competition in the Western Conference, only San Antonio, Oklahoma City, and Dallas pose any real threats. San Antonio has Tim Duncan’s ailing ankle to deal with, Oklahoma City might still be too young and are still working on how to integrate Kendrick Perkins, and Dallas has been a notorious underachiever over the years.
In the East there are some serious threats in Boston, Chicago, and Miami. The Celtics could be aging right in front of us, Miami might take another year or two to figure things out, but I’m seriously worried about the Bulls.
Let’s go Lakers – here’s to another three-peat!