This time last week, the Lakers were 13-2, the Miami Heat were floating one game above .500 and all was well in Tinsel Town. Today, the Lakers sit at 13-6, and although the Super Friends of South Beach continue to struggle, all is most certainly not well for the purple and gold.
Losing to Utah, Indiana, Memphis and Houston is undesirable at any point in the season – doing so in four consecutive games is simply unacceptable for a two-time defending NBA champion. Unexplainably, the Lakers, who were projected by many to finish the season with an upwards of 60 wins, have apparently forgotten how to close out a game and capture a victory.
Maintaining leads and closing out opponents has come up as a cause for concern for the Lakers in the past; however, with one of the best benches in basketball (freshly coined the “Killer B’s” following their hot start to the season) to go along with a rejuvenated Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, the formula to success appeared as simple as two plus two for the Lakers during their first 15 games of 2010.
Now, as they rest on the heels of a four game losing streak, they must ask themselves: “is this really how we are planning on defending our title?” If the answer is yes, the Lakers and their fans can kiss any hopes at a three-peat, goodbye; because the fellas out in Boston, San Antonio and Orlando are playing like the Lakers are just another team, not the reigning world champs.
Although it is crucial for the Lakers to pick up as many wins as possible while the season is still young, and while their players are still fresh – it’s generally more favorable (in the long run) to struggle and work out all the kinks early on; because come playoff time, they will not have any time to gel or figure out their identity. The teams of the Western Conference are too tough to let the Lakers believe that they can coast to a fourth straight NBA Finals appearance without facing a challenge. If the Lakers do have that mindset (which I don’t believe they do), they are going to struggle mightily when they start facing off with the NBA’s elite.