Can The Lakers Repeat?
While the Lakers are boasting the best record in the West along with one of the most talented and highly-paid teams in the NBA, winning a championship might not prove so easy. See why after the jump.
As we enter the final days of the NBA regular season and embark on what is sure to be one of the most high-stakes, high-energy, hard-fought playoff seasons in recent history, the Lakers have a few things to be sure of.
- They have pretty much wrapped up (although not quite) home field advantage
- They have some very talented and seasoned pieces to the puzzle (e.g. Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Derek Fisher)
- Their centerpiece, one Kobe Bryant, is the truth and is willing to put the entire team and city on his back.
- Phil Jackson will stay cool under pressure, no matter what.
Believe it or not, that may not be enough.
Seriously, it’s a dog fight in the West. The # 2–#5 spots are all yet to be determined at one or two games apart. The competition is truly stiff and the Lakers haven’t fared so well against some of these teams.
For most of their series versus the Lakers last season, these guys looked like the better team. This year, the Nuggets have had the Lakers’ number, as the season series currently sits at 2-1. The first of the Nuggets’ victories over the Lakers came in at a whopping 26-point margin, 105–79. The Lakers will have a chance to even the series at two games apiece next Thursday, April 8 at Denver.
The Cavs are boasting the best record in the league (for the second year in a row) and they now have Shaquille O’Neal down low to deal with Dwight Howard, who—along with the Orlando Magic—kept them from Eastern Conference supremacy last year. They’ve also added Antawn Jamison to an already-talented squad (featuring MVP shoe-in LeBron James), and even before those deals had been done, they swept their regular-season series with the Lakers, winning both games. They have proven they can win at home or in L.A., which doesn’t look good for the Lakers as the Cavs will have the homecourt advantage.
In a somewhat puzzling move, the Lakers traded forward Trevor Ariza for Ron Artest. The very same Trevor Ariza who came up so big for the Lakers during the playoffs last year, taking several big shots and making two landmark steals on inbound passes during their championship run. MC Ron still doesn’t seem to have exactly found his role in Los Angeles yet, and certainly isn’t the consistent scorer Ariza turned out to be. Add a capacity for Rodman-esque hairdos and stunts, and #37 is quite a question mark for Lakers fans.
Other than that, the Lakers are also plagued by their inability to close teams out properly. They seem to lack the intensity to finish teams off, always giving them life and chances to win (which probably explains their 2-3 record on their recent five game road trip). They failed to sweep the Jazz last year, and were taken to seven games by the Houston Rockets. Those situations and their lackluster mentality could prove quite costly in this season’s playoffs, with so many young teams looking to pull upsets (Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder come to mind).
They got us all hyped up for a Kobe vs. LeBron showdown last year, and it never happened. This year, with all the talent and hunger for a championship that is sure to be put on display, the same mistake isn’t likely to happen again. Looks like we’ll just have to watch and wait.
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