After what happened in the first quarter of the New Orleans game last Friday, and Sunday in Houston, the Lakers looked down and out. Not only could they not stop a point guard, they couldn’t find a way to put the ball in the hole over a consistent period of time.
They looked dead in the water, like a team in search of its soul.
The Lakers task on the rest of the road trip would not be any easier going against the two best home teams in the NBA without Bynum, Gasol, and Ariza. So what do the Los Angeles Lakers do?
They jumped all over the Dallas Mavericks in the 1st half opening a huge lead, 59-38 to be exact. It looked over in Big D, to say the least. Then some trait of Lakers teams from the past popped up; they seemed to lose their killer instinct, and began playing non-aggressive style of basketball. When you do that, the calls always seem to go against you as frustration builds.
A spectacular Kobe 360 no-look lay up, and some big shots by Vlad, allowed the Lakers to persevere and escape Dallas with a 102-100 victory. Kobe said after the game, “We had to stop the bleeding. We got a big lead, but it wasn’t the way we wanted to close out the game. But we got the win.”
Then the really tough cookie, a showdown with the hated ones from the mid-west, the Utah Jazz. And just like Kobe said, after how the Utah fans treated us and most importantly Derek Fisher the last time the Lakers were in Utah, this was personal. The Lakers first half was almost as good as the Lakers could possibly play. Lamar Odom and Ronny Turiaf were aggressive, and Luke wasn’t messing up too bad.
Then Utah comes roaring back, cutting into the 24 point lead, but the Lakers showed everyone something, this was not Dallas, and Utah was not getting back into the game. The Lakers were able to counter every single run by the Utah Jazz, as Derek Fisher, Jordan Farmar, and “The Machine,” all hit big shots.
Kobe’s ferocious dunk put the game away for good, as the Lakers were popping their jerseys, while the Utah Jazz fans were throwing stuff on the court leaving one to wonder if they had watched the fiasco at the Palace in Auburn Hills.
Over the last two games, the Los Angeles Lakers have looked like champions. I don’t know what’s more impressive, that the Lakers are playing at such a high level, or the fact that they are doing it without three key pieces to the puzzle. The Championship Swag is back in LA to say the least.
As the road trip came to rest last night in Utah, I looked backed at the questions that the Lakers had to answer on the big test…
1. Did they match up against each team? Well, seeing as they did not have Pau Gasol except for about 2 minutes, I say the Lakers did a superb job, they were in all four games, and were able to win in the toughest places to play in the NBA.
2. Did the Lakers regain focus? They answer to the question is an obviously Duh!
3. Did the Lakers add Ira Newble? Well as of Friday morning, the reports were that Ira has decided to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers over Cleveland. What a big boost this will be to our bench. He will do some of the things defensively that Luke Walton just can’t do, and should be a great addition as the Lakers seek the promise land.
4. Did Kobe clinch the MVP on trip? Well if his last two performances did not clinch that guy the MVP this season I don’t know what will. So to quote one of my favorite guys in the history of basketball Sir Charles Barkley, “if Kobe does not win the MVP this year, those voters are numskulls.”
The desire is back! The swagger is back. The roller coaster ride that the Lakers have been on this past year is starting to get real exciting, as the anticipation of the returns of injured 7 footers Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum draw closer. Now the homestretch is here and we are rounding 3rd, hopefully we don’t get thrown out at the plate.