The Lakers have had a forgettable season, but still have a fighting chance of making the playoffs. The question is: where to next?
As the NBA season comes to a flurrying finish, the situation in Los Angeles presents quite a contrasting picture. The LA Clippers, who have historically been the underdogs in the city, have clinched the division and have locked their spot in the playoffs. The Lakers are in a completely different situation. They are currently in the 8th and final playoff spot, but must continue to stay ahead of the Utah Jazz to finalize their playoff position. From a preseason that started off so promising, it certainly has been a roller coaster ride for the Lakers and their fans .
When the Lakers signed Steve Nash and Dwight Howard over the offseason, it seemed that Mitch Kupchak had assembled a team to compete with the Miami Heat for the NBA title. Already blessed with Gasol, World Peace, and the ever present Kobe Bryant, the team only looked to be better. However, the season did not start off well for the Lakers, and almost as soon as he had come in, Head Coach Mike Brown was gone, unable to implement the Princeton offense . The Lakers were off to their worst start in half a century, and to compound matters, Nash and Howard were still struggling with injuries. In came Mike D’Antoni, and slowly the results began to improve. The Lakers finally got over the .500 mark, and inched their way closer and closer to a playoff berth.
While Howard has put up steady numbers, it has been Kobe Bryant giving LA the energy and points it needs to secure the 8th spot. 34 year old Bryant has been playing nearly every minute of the past few games, and completed all 48 minutes against the Portland Trail Blazers, scoring a season high 47 points to keep the Lakers on track. Teammate Gasol called his performance “bittersweet” and later explained that the Lakers need more balance, and was looking towards the long term future when he said that.
He may be spot on with his point though. While Kobe’s brilliance may get them through the first hurdle in making the playoffs, it will not solve any of the larger problems prevailing. In the playoffs, there will be a need for consistence, which is something Lakers have rarely had this season. Too many times they have shown up to one game, only to go backwards in the next. The win against Portland marked the first time this season that the Lakers had won back to back night games. If the Lakers can get to the playoffs, it will only be one answer for the many questions this team has been left with.
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