Sometimes teams are so gifted that they tend to develop a light switch mindset. One moment they’re on. The next moment they’re off. This has been the essence of the Los Angeles Lakers this season.
Coach Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant won’t admit this, but the two-time NBA champions are in a precarious position. On-again/off-again may work during the regular season. In the playoffs, it’s the guarantee for an early exit. Maybe in the back of their collective minds, the Lakers realize this and understand the need to play better against the league’s top teams.
The Lakers delivered a message in last night’s 92-86 road win over the Boston Celtics. This victory was significant. Prior to last night, the Lakers were 1-6 in games played against the NBA’s elite teams. Over the past few weeks, reporters have repeatedly raised questions about the team’s inability to beat any of pro basketball’s big boys.
What a national television audience saw last night was a Lakers team that seemed to have regained its focus and competitive drive.
“the Closer” came through in the final quarter the way he normally does. Even so, the Lakers cannot continue to win championships with Kobe embracing the role of super-hero. Kobe
The presence and productivity of 7-footer Anthony Bynum in the middle makes the Lakers a much different team, especially on defense. With Bynum in the game, Pau Gasol can move to power forward, his natural position. There are lingering concerns about Bynum. He’s been injury-prone and there are questions about his intensity. Bynum’s inconsistency has limited his effectiveness and led to the rumors about him being put on the trading block in the not-too-distant future.
In all fairness to the Celtics, they did not play at their usual level against the Lakers. Right now, they’re short-handed because of injuries. The lack of depth shows most noticeably on the front line with the absence of the O’Neal’s, Coquille and Germaine. As long as the Celtics are healthy at the start of the postseason, there’s nobody in the East who can beat them in a seven-game series.
As for the Lakers, don’t count them out. What’s been missing with them this season is the overall consistency from the past two seasons. It’s going to be awfully difficult for this team to win a third straight title. Between now and the end of the regular season., the Lakers won’t win enough games to catch the front-running San Antonio Spurs in the NBA West, or Boston or Miami in the NBA East. As a result, they won’t have home-court advantage in the conference finals or the NBA Finals (assuming they get that far).
Then again, maybe the Lakers will be more motivated since they’re viewed as under-dogs when facing teams with better records. It won’t be long before we see how this all plays out.