Special thanks to Zayd Sharif for submitting his take to the Lakers Nation and giving us the rights to post it on the blog. Thanks also to Gary Chin for the Santa/Kobe jersey image. Once again, if you have your own take or whatever and want to see it on TLN, feel free to e-mail it to us at Articles@theLakersNation.com.
I don’t celebrate Christmas, but I definitely know what I want for Christmas.
There are two games from last season that I remember more clearly than any other game: Games 4 and 6 of the NBA Finals. Game 4 saw an issue the Lakers currently face: blowing leads due to complacency, whether it is points within a game or leads in the loss column. Game 6, well the final score says everything about that game.
We’ve all heard the words that go along with that series: embarrassment, soft, weak. So the Lakers came in to this season with an intention of improving their defense, getting huge help with the healthy returns of Trevor Ariza and Andrew Bynum. They wanted to get tougher and stronger. And for the first seven games they looked flawless and December 25th couldn’t come fast enough.
21 games later, they don’t look as invincible, struggling against bad teams. Phil Jackson talked about winning the home court battle and it looks as though the Lakers have the West in their hands. But, assuming they make it back to the finals, they will open on the road, whether it is against Boston or Cleveland. But let’s ignore the budding power in Cleveland right now.
Boston is the focus.
Whether it be watching them in the locker room before a game or refusing to wear green, the Lakers know who they need to match, they know who they want to beat, and now the Lakers can focus on Boston.
Last year, they made it to the Finals playing great basketball. They breezed through Denver, defeated Utah even with poor rebounding numbers, and exposed San Antonio’s age.
Then the Finals began and ended with those rounds forgotten. Boston came in to that series after a seven game series with Cleveland, after being taken to seven by the sub-.500 Atlanta Hawks. They survived a huge game from LeBron James, in what was an outright battle with the Cavs. Seeing the Celtics struggle through three rounds, and the Lakers breeze through theirs in arguable the toughest conference ever had many picking the Lakers. Maybe that gave them too much confidence. Maybe that made the Celtics the underdogs, even if they had home court.
None of that matters now because the gap in championships is three.
Now it’s a December, and the Lakers are struggling through games with the Grizzlies. They lose back to back games to Florida teams. Meanwhile the Celtics are on the verge of a 20 game winning streak. Polar opposites. It reminds me of last June, but with the teams switched.
I feel like the Lakers are underdogs, even on their own court. But last year, the alleged underdogs won. Now the Lakers have Bynum, who is supposed to make a large impact on their ability to protect the basket. Now, the Lakers are hopefully tougher and won’t be pushed around. Now the Lakers need to win the biggest statement game of the season.
For Christmas, I want the Lakers to make a statement.