The Week Ahead: Lakers Hit the Road Before Meeting Celtics at Staples
The Los Angeles Lakers are 3-0 since the All-Star break, 8-2 in their last 10, and beginning to show consistency in their play.
The second half of the season started Wednesday night against a Kevin Love-less Minnesota team who was injured late the night before in a dramatic fourth quarter comeback win against the Los Angeles Clippers. The Timberwolves did not stand a chance against the Lakers, who were led by Kobe Bryant and his game-high 31 points. The Lakers did score over 100 points, but the key to the victory was their defense, holding the Timberwolves to only 85 points.
For the first time all year, the Lakers scored over 100 points in back-to-back performances as Friday night they scored a season high 115 points against the Sacramento Kings. However, the week was highlighted by the Sunday afternoon showdown with the best of the east, Miami Heat. The Lakers played with tremendous passion from the start. Kobe Bryant scored 18 of his 33 points in the first quarter while containing Wade to only 16 points, who had an early exit as he fouled out with 5:14 left in the game.
The story of this game was the determination the entire Lakers team showed to shut down the Heat. They held the Heat to 83 points on 37.5 percent shooting. Although the Heat were without All-Star power forward Chris Bosh, the Lakers did not let up. Kobe Bryant’s 33 points marked his third straight 30-plus point game. This was a great victory for the Lakers as it does not only prove to themselves, but also sends a message to the rest of the league, that they are still one of the elite teams in the NBA.
This week, the Lakers head back on the road for a three-game trip that features its first stop in Detroit, followed by a visit to the nation’s capital of Washington D.C., and then finishing up in Minnesota before returning home for a big showdown with the Boston Celtics.
Their first stop is Tuesday night against a sub-par Detroit Pistons team that is driven by center Greg Monroe and point guard Rodney Stuckey. The Pistons are 28th in the league in scoring, at a hair under 90 ppg, and 17th in defense, giving up 95 ppg. These two statistics show just why they are 12-26. A team cannot simply win a high percentage of their season’s games when they give up on average more points than they score. The Lakers’ bigs should have an easy night, as no player on the Pistons can match their strength or skill. If the Lakers stick to their game plan they should leave Detroit with a win.
Next up on their trip is Wednesday night against the Washington Wizards. This game is the only one that should cause them to struggle a bit, as it is the second of a back-to-back on the road. This has been the Lakers Achilles’ heel all year because they are an older team and always seem to hit the wall in the second half. However, Washington is 24th in the league at scoring averaging 94 ppg, but are 31st in the league at defense, allowing opponents to average 101.2 ppg. The Wizards are the second worst team in the league at 8-28, so despite playing the night before in Detroit, I see no way for the Lakers to lose to the Wizards, even at their worst.
The last stop for the Lakers will be on Friday for the third meeting between the Lakers and the Timberwolves. The Lakers own Minnesota, as they have won 17 straight games over them. They are still a young team with players who are not only learning how to play in the NBA, but play together, and play for their first-year head coach Rick Adelman. They are in the top 10 scoring with 97 points, but give up 96 ppg. They still struggle with the twin towers of the Los Angeles Lakers, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, and, like most teams in the league, have no answer for Kobe Bryant. This will be the third road game in four days, but if this stretch of 10 games is any indication on the way the Lakers will play the rest of the season, there should be no reason for them not to go 3-0.
Yes, this is a road trip for the Lakers with three games in four nights; however, they are also playing three teams who do not have a winning record. Minnesota will be their toughest challenge as they are 19-19 and 1.5 games back of Denver for the 8th seed in the west. The Lakers need to take care of the basketball as well as utilize their strengths against these teams to be victorious in all three.