With Kobe Leading, Lakers Look Like They’ll Be Okay Down the Stretch
The Lakers still haven’t ‘got it’ yet. But with Kobe’s promise of making the playoffs and the team winning four of their last five, falling only to the powerful Oklahoma City Thunder on the road, that promise doesn’t seem completely crazy.
I have to wonder if this is a temporary spurt though. The Lakers are probably the most talked about team in the NBA, with as many off-the-court stories circling the interwebs as stories about actual Lakers basketball. There’s no shortage of emotional charge these players can pull from to add a story line to each game. My question is: do the Lakers need this?
With the unfortunate passing of Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss, the Lakers came out and had an emotional win over the Boston Celtics, seemingly giving all they had to top the long-time rivals at home. When Mark Cuban fired off ‘hypothetical’ comments about the Lakers using the Amnesty Clause on Kobe next season, Kobe fired back after an incredible win over Cuban’s Dallas Mavericks with a tweet reading, “Amnesty THAT.” Follow that up with two unbelievable comeback victories over the Hornets and Raptors, and the Lakers find themselves right in the thick of the postseason hunt.
Without all these extra incentives to win games though, would they? Everyone knows it’s much easier to win when you have more motivation and support of fans all over the NBA. With the passing of Dr. Buss everyone was on the Lakers’ side. What happens when it’s the Lakers against the world again?
The win over Josh Smith and the Atlanta Hawks got the Lakers to an even 30-30, reaching the .500 mark for the first time since December 28, 2012- again. They immediately fell back below with the loss to the Thunder, but two straight wins has them over .500 for the first time since November. Still, the only road wins they have had over this stretch was what I’m dubbing the Amnesty Game against the Mavs in Dallas and the unbelievable comeback against the Hornets in New Orleans.
I have no reason to believe the Lakers don’t need some sort of outside influence to light a fire under them. They need an extra incentive to do well in these big games. Coming down the stretch here, there aren’t that many coals left to go in the fire. It was only a few games ago that fans, analysts, announcers were saying if they Lakers don’t win their season is over. Is this going to become a routine statement? What are the must-wins? What are the ‘acceptable’ losses? I can tell you there aren’t many of them.
The Lakers schedule down the stretch isn’t difficult. After last Tuesday against the Thunder, their only road tests are at the Indiana Pacers, who are shaping up to be quite the surprise in the East and ‘at’ the Clippers. They have the Spurs at home in April and a couple more runarounds with Golden State. Other than that, their schedule is absolute cake. Their season is essentially set up for them to take off and propel themselves into the playoffs. I don’t think it’s farfetched to say they could finish 47-35, and that’s with losing a good chunk of their big games against playoff contenders.
The only thing is there won’t be any emotional charge left for many of these games. They are ‘gimme games’ and the Lakers shouldn’t just win most of them, they should dominate most of them.
Even John Hollinger, noted Laker un-enthusiast, has upped his odds for the Lakers making the playoffs on ESPN to 47.3 percent from 33.5 percent just last week. I’m here to say that even those odds are too low, and looking at the Lakers schedule they will be making it in after all, especially if a man named Kobe Bryant has anything to say about it.
In case you missed it – Kobe’s dunk of the week against the Hawks last Sunday!