At Midpoint Lakers Look Good, Not Great
The Lakers have completed half of their 82-game regular season schedule with the best record in the NBA.
The defending champions look good again, but there are some reasons to doubt their greatness – a few issues to deal with in the second half of the season.
The Lakers’ 32-9 record is predictable considering that they have outstanding players and have had a ridiculously favorable schedule. They’ve played 26 home games and only nine well-spaced road games. Considering that, nine losses at this point is a little high.
They should be concerned about being significantly outplayed by Cleveland on Christmas Day at Staples Center and by barely avoiding defeats in two other home games when only blunders by the opponent and then a Kobe Bryant remarkable shot won games.
Against Miami Dwayne Wade had to miss a free throw to give the Lakers any chance and he did. Against Sacramento, Coach Paul Westphal called a time out as his team was about to make a layup that would have clinched victory. Then the Kings had to miss free throws and they did before Bryant hit a shot at the final buzzer.
The Lakers earned every one of their wins. Don’t get me wrong. My point, however, is they haven’t been dominant like a great team would be.
I’m concerned that Bryant has been affected recently by a broken finger and back spasms, Now that the Lakers are finally traveling – beginning an eight-game trip tonight in Cleveland – they’ll need Bryant’s heroics more than ever.
Another concern is the inconsistent play of center Andrew Bynum, who has some excellent games and some poor ones.
Bynum had so much trouble keeping up with Dwight Howard in Monday’s game against Orlando that he was benched down the stretch. The more experienced Pau Gasol took over the unpleasant task of defending Howard and the Lakers won.
The game was a rematch of last season’s championship series. Will they meet again in this season’s Finals. Cleveland and Boston have played better than Orlando so far, but it wouldn’t surprise me if any of those three qualify.
On television Charles Barkley picks Orlando, citing its three-point shooting combined with Howard’s inside presence. But Orlando isn’t as good defensively as last season.
Having been on long Laker trips in the past I’m well aware of how tough they can be. A key injury, illness or just plain fatigue can make a team far less effective.
In the second half of the season the Lakers will be challenged, and we’ll see how they respond.