Here we are in early April, NBA playoffs looming, five games left in the season. Who could have imagined that the Los Angeles Lakers would be clawing away for a measly playoff position? In what has been by far one of the most memorable (and by memorable I mean head slapping) seasons in franchise history, the Lakers have finally come together and playing ball how it was imagined when this star studded lineup was assembled.
Regardless of what issues you may have with the Lakers this season, it means nothing at this point. The personalities, the losses, the drama, it is all in the past. All the scars the Laker Nation has endured this season will be healed by one thing… winning.
The problem with the Lakers this season is that you never know what team is going to show up on any given night. Riding a three game winning streak that included solid wins over a hungry Mavericks team and the defensive minded Grizzlies, the Lakers dropped the ball again Sunday, losing to the rivaled Clippers. In the win, the Clippers swept the season series while knocking the Lakers behind the Jazz for the final playoff spot. With five games remaining on the schedule, the Lakers need some tough wins and help from the Jazz if they even want to think about the playoffs.
Now when the Lakers make it to the playoffs, they will have to go down as one of the most dangerous eighth seeds in NBA history. In recent years, teams like the 1998-1999 New York Knicks and the 2006-2007 Golden State Warriors have made history by knocking off the number one seed. Keep in mind, both of these teams had been perceived as Cinderella stories, but this Lakers team is far from those comparisons. With a blood hungry Kobe playing out of his mind this year, any team in his path is going to be pushed to the brink.
In past seasons, the Lakers have also struggled with one major flaw; defending at the point guard position. With the new wave of freakishly athletic NBA players, the makeup of pounding the ball inside and big men dominating is at an all time low. Looking at the Western Conference alone, speedy guards like Russell Wilson, Damian Lillard and Stephen Curry feast against our aging roster. The good news for the Lakers is that the game slows down in the playoffs. In the half court set, if the Lakers move the ball and run the type of offense we have played lately (not shoot with 21 seconds on the shot clock) 100+ points a night should be a breeze.
Even with a great offense, defense every night cannot continue to be our Achilles heel. Fortunately, for the Lakers, after being injury ridden all season, the pieces remaining have the ability to play at a high-level and when committed, can prove to be a solid defensive unit. With Dwight Howard finally healthy and Gasol’s length, the paint can once again become a no fly zone. Throw in the energy of Earl Clark and unorthodox game of Antwan Jamison. It is hard to argue many teams in the league can match the Lakers down low.
Perimeter and transition defense on the other hand is a much different story. With reports of Metta World Peace in tonight’s starting lineup, hopefully the Lakers can use Metta’s quick bounce back after surgery as some inspiration down the final stretch. Any effort less than 110% in these final games and you can kiss the Lakers playoff hopes goodbye.
The Lakers will be in the playoffs this year and if they play at a consistently high level on both ends of the floor, watch for them to make some real noise. No one believes in the Lakers and if they do it is expected that they are pummeled first round. Can the Lakers win the Championship this year? It is not likely, but still possible. Of any eighth seeded team to make it to the NBA playoffs, no unit has ever had a better chance than the 2012-2013 Los Angeles Lakers.
So look at it this way, the Lakers really have nothing to lose at this point. Show up or shut up. Win the next five games and set fear in the hearts of any team they face in the playoffs. One thing stands in the Los Angeles Lakers way and that is history. Let us write it, let us own it Laker Nation.