Photo Credit: Kirby Lee, US Presswire

The Los Angeles Lakers are now doing what we all expected at the start of the season: winning.

Mike Brown is gone, and Phil Jackson is not coming. D’Antoni may be limping, but the Lakers are winning. The last few games in the post Mike Brown-era have the Lakers looking like a totally different team…

Correction: the starters looks like a totally different team. As for the bench, they have to step up in order for the Lakers to have championship success this season. Along with Jordan Hill, the starting five is playing masterfully, but with four of the five starters (with Steve Nash starting) being up there in age, they cannot carry the load alone the entire season. At this pace, along with the ineffectiveness of Antwan Jamison, Jodie Meeks, and Steve Blake in particular, the starters are risking running out of gas by season’s end.

In last night’s win against the Brooklyn Nets, the bench mustered up a total of 10 points. Yep, 10 points. The starters accounted for the other 85 points. In Sunday’s night win over the Rockets, the bench wasn’t much better (25 total points). The Lakers need their bench to be consistent… but not consistently bad, like they have been.

Kobe Bryant is having one of the most efficient seasons of his career, but if he can’t get substantial minutes of rest each game, the Lakers are in big trouble. In sports, the old adage is true: It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish that matters.

A large majority of that responsibility falls on Jodi Meeks, who has a reputation as a streaky shooter, but so far this season, has largely been a disappointment. In order for this team to continue to get better, Meeks has to come in with a semblance of the same mentality of the guy (Kobe) he is replacing: Be a scorer. Catch and shoot. Come off of screens. If Kobe is going to get his rest, Meeks has to be more aggressive with the basketball. If he can manage 10 points a game (which isn’t that unrealistic), I expect the Lakers will be playing well into June.

This group of bench players has the potential to become the latest (and best) version of the Bench Mob, but right now they are playing like the Bench Mobbed. They are quality players and maybe, just maybe, Coach D’Antoni can get more out of them than Mike Brown was able to. If the Lakers are going to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy in June, the bench needs to average 30-35 points per game. If each reserve can take on the mentality of the guy he replaces and bring the same energy, intensity, and execution at his position, the Lakers can and will only find success.

The Lakers are in a must win situation. There is no next season. The window is now.