Last week the Lakers went 2-2 in a span where they could have won all four, but that week is behind them and it is time to look ahead. It will be a tough stretch, the Lakers head to New Orleans on Monday and San Antonio on Wednesday, before returning home to face the Denver Nuggets on Friday, and Dallas on Sunday.
Although the Hornets are a bottom league team and seem to give the Lakers more then they can handle whenever they meet. The Lakers need to be focused in this game and not look ahead to the game against the Spurs Wednesday night.
Wednesday night the Lakers finally face the San Antonio Spurs for the first time all season. The Spurs recently passed the Oklahoma City Thunder for best record in the Western Conference. Led by coach Gregg Popovich, the Spurs have flown under the radar all year despite their ability to win game after game. They have five players averaging over 10 points per game, and are anchored by their big three, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Tim Duncan. This is a game that is winnable for the Lakers, as they seem to match up evenly with the Spurs. Newly acquired Laker Ramon Sessions should be able to slow down Parker, or at least go stride for stride with him if he does not play timid. Kobe and Manu kill every team they face, and Pau and Duncan are very similar players, but Pau has the slight edge by being slightly younger and quicker. Andrew Bynum is far superior to any of the Spurs centers or Duncan, and new Spurs swingman Stephen Jackson is a deadly streaky shooter who Metta World Peace will have to play close attention to. However, the edge goes to the Spurs in this game because of their bench. If the Lakers are to win this game, they will have to get strong play from their bench players, or it will be a long night.
The next two games for the Lakers are at home versus the number seven and eight seeds in the West. First up are the Nuggets from Denver, who have slipped a little since the last time the Lakers have played them. Like the Lakers, the Nuggets have a new/old face on the team as Wilson Chandler has returned after his season in China. This is a team that likes to get out in the open court trying to score quick, easy fast break points. Point guard Ty Lawson sets the tempo as he looks to push the ball off every missed or made shot. He does not let teams relax after their offensive possession. The Lakers must get back on defense quickly when Lawson is in the game to disallow any easy fast break points.
Sunday the Lakers face the Dallas Mavericks, who are eight seed in the west, for the last time in the regular season. The Lakers have won all three games thus far versus Dallas by playing strong defense, controlling the rebounds, and having good ball movement on offense. Dallas is one of the few teams that double-teams Bynum in the post the second he touches the ball, so Bynum must be patient and not get frustrated by the little amount of shots he attempts. He must also be smart by allowing the double-team to come, and making the correct pass out of it. Then the Lakers must swing the ball and either hit the open man around the perimeter, or drive to the basket getting lay-ups or get sent to the foul line.
This is a tough week for the Lakers as they face three teams that would be in the playoffs if the season ended today, and because they struggle against the Hornets. Andrew Bynum needs to keep his composure because when he gets ejected from games, the Lakers have a tough time. Most of all, they have to stop giving up big leads. They play so well to go up by 15 points, and then just lose focus to find themselves in a dogfight. If they continue to allow teams back in the game, they will lose against the better teams, and especially in the playoffs.