Thinking About Streaks, Statement Games, & The Journey

Darius Soriano —  January 20, 2011

This may seem random, but I love visiting Basketball-Reference.  I go there multiple times a day just to search through their vast database of stats, games, teams, and players looking for nuggets of information that better help me understand the game. (I also use their stats for our game previews for info on offensive and defensive efficiency, pace, and other useful info to help look at that day’s match up.)

Today, when visiting the site, I found an interesting stat that I wanted to share. Did you know that since the 2007-08 season (the one in which the Lakers acquired Pau Gasol) that the Lakers’ longest winning streak (in a single season) has only been 11 games? They’ve reached that mark a single time. Their second longest streak has been 10 games (twice) and besides that their longest streak has been all of 8 games.  This year, the Lakers longest streak has been 7 games, you’ll surely remember it since it just ended against the Clippers this past Sunday. (On a side note, there have been 12 streaks longer than the Lakers’ 11 game tear during this same time frame. They’ve been accomplished by 8 different teams with multiple streaks by the Celtics, Cavs, and Mavs in that time.)

I bring this all up because I think we can all agree that one of the more frustrating aspects of following the Lakers this season has been the lack of ability to build momentum. Early in the year, the Lakers seemed to have everything going well but soon after starting out so hot the team fell into a roller coaster of a season where a handful of wins was followed by a few losses. And on like that we’ve gone. The team takes a couple of steps forward, a couple backward and we all sit back and talk about what’s wrong with the team and wonder if any of the recurring issues we see will be the fatal flaw that ends the team’s reign over the league. 

I think most fans would agree that all they want is consistent play and the chance to win each game; for the team to play hard and smart and to their potential. If that happens, most think, the wins will follow and ultimately we’re all happy.

But if pressed harder, I think what fans really want is another championship and for this team to play its best basketball in May and June. For a parade at the end of the year and for Kobe and Fisher to hold up 6 fingers as they grasp on to another trophy.  And therein lies the rub because what fans really want (a win each night AND a championship at the end of the year) don’t always mean that the team is going to play the way we want on any given night.

In the comments, there was a brief debate about statement games. I think if – taking from my earlier example – fans can’t get a win each night, they at least want wins against the best teams. A team like the Spurs (2 weeks ago) or the Mavs (last night). Commenter Joe summed up this side of the argument well when he said:

(Dallas) is a game that has more meaning than against a non playoff contending team. If I were the Lakers, I wouldn’t want to let these good teams to keep on beating us and give them more confidence against us going into the playoffs. I mean if the Lakers believe they are still far and away the best team and can just flip the switch like they did last year come playoff time, they will lose, they need to let go of the arrogance.

However, to counter that another commenter (Dirty Sanchez) stated that:

A statement game during the regular season for a two time defending champion is an oxymoron. LA knows what type of effort it takes to win in the playoffs. You cant judge whats happening now will be what the future holds. Don’t get me wrong the team is frustrating to watch, but at the same time things can change at anytime.

And this is what it’s like to follow this team. Frustration. Confidence. This is the roller coaster we all ride on the journey towards the end of the season. I wish I knew which side was right but I don’t. None of us do and we won’t until the end of the line. Such is this Lakers’ season. I have a feeling this won’t be the last time we’re all wondering what’s wrong while also feeling perfectly confident that it will all be better in the next game.

Darius Soriano

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56 responses to Thinking About Streaks, Statement Games, & The Journey

  1. I have to admit that my confidence is beginning to wane just a tad. Up until a few weeks ago, I was squarely in the “let’s not get carried away with the regular season – the playoffs is what matters, and this team knows what it takes” camp.

    And while I am largely still there, I am starting to have my doubts. I didn’t necessarily think that they were going to go out and destroy for the entire season, but I think that I let it creep into my thinking that they would honor Phil’s Last Stand with a more consistent effort to please him by doing the right thing.

    That obviously hasn’t been the case. I still believe that they will turn it around by playoff time, I’m just not nearly as sure about it as I was a few weeks ago.

  2. All I remember is what Pau Gasol said in an interview last year right before the playoffs started. “We feel like we can just flip the switch.” Hey, they actually did. I just sure hope that mentality is out of their heads at this point of the season. And yes, I believe it is still there. The Lakers feel they don’t HAVE to play well right now. Their is no urgency. They think it will just come together. And then when you get into the playoffs, the good teams that beat your ass in the season, now have homecourt, and have more confidence playing against you. If the Lakers were no doubt the best most dominant team it would not matter, but that is not the case this year. Many teams have obviously caught up and they know exactly how to beat the Lakers. So to me, these games should be statement games. These should be games that really matter more, even if you are the defending champs.

  3. Lastly I want to say, sure, we do not know what the future holds. Just because they are painful to watch now, doesn’t mean they will later. This team can turn it around and has the talent to do so. But if we are more than halfway into the season and this team has done nothing to show they can 3 peat or even make it to the finals, yes I am going to have great concern. That is just how I am.

  4. For a two time defending champion, I think statement games cut both ways. I would absolutely love it if the Lakers won all their statement games. But let’s take a look at the other side of the coin. Don’t forget these are statement games for the other teams. San Antonio and Dallas want to knock the Lakers off their perch. They were looking to make a statement that they are real contenders.

    In both losses, Lakers came out strong, played smart on both sides of the ball and took decent leads. But the opponent wasn’t going to just roll over. They too had to make a statement and put in more effort to win the game.

    Does this excuse the Lakers lack of effort? Of course not. But human nature being what it is, isn’t it more natural to think that these statement games are worth more to the opposing teams and they would put out more effort leading to the win?

    As a fan, I only hope that losses in these statement games reinforces in the team that they can’t take a play off when it counts. During pressure moments, teams that haven’t won reach back to when they experienced success to remember what they had to do to win it.

    Perhaps the Lakers having won it already, need to reach back to times of failure and remember what not to do. At least that’s my hope as a fan when the playoffs come around.

  5. 1. Joe

    What would qualify as evidence that LA could make it to the finals? A single game against a team who’s motivation is to measure themselves against the defending champs. The only thing I want for the rest of the year is a healthy squad. You can have the head to head matchups that mean nothing unless your there at the end(only one team will get to kiss that globe). A veteran squad beating themselves up for a regular season championship, no thanks, I prefer them to save it for when it counts( April, May, and June). A dangerous game too play if inexperienced, but what this team has proved time and time again is that you can never count them out.

  6. 2. +1 You beat me to my point.

  7. Not Charlie Rosen January 20, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    I think it was Kobe who said, early in the season, that [aside from Blake and Barnes] everyone there had already played in the ultimate “statement game”: game 7 in the NBA finals against a hated opponent. And pulled it out. Seems to me–as un-fun as it is to actually watch it happen–that it’s understandable that the team isn’t going to reach all the way down and pull out its absolute best (what we conjured up last June) for a game in Dec-Jan-Feb, no matter who it’s against or how deep our opponent is reaching.

  8. There is more than just complacency and waiting to turn on the switch in the playoffs. There are significant differences between the roster right now and the roster at the end of last season – both with individual players who were on the roster last year, and with the new players. That requires a lot of adjustments, particularly since the two (arguably) most significant pieces (Bynum and Kobe) missed or were significantly limited during training camp due to surgery and recovery. Because of all these changes, it is more important than usual that they focus on playing properly. That’s where the complacency becomes very dangerous, because right now, when they “flip the switch” they don’t know what that will give them.

  9. I’m with Dirty. A team that has won back-to-back titles and been to 3 straight finals does not have ‘statement games’. What statement is there left for them to make?

    All I care about is the specific issues relating to how the team is playing right now and how those issues can be resolved. The last couple of years we have seen numerous people use frustrating play in the regular season as proof that the Lakers have no chance of winning a title. How did that work out?

    This is not me saying that the current problems don’t matter or that everything will work itself out automatically. I just don’t buy the idea that this team needs to constantly ‘prove’ itself in the regular season.

  10. i agree with exhelodrvr.

  11. You guys like to think that because the Lakers won back to back titles and have already won their biggest statement game, they have nothing to prove right now. They really have nothing big to play for before playoff time. WAKE UP GUYS! This is not last year, it is not 2 years ago. Brand new season. Teams that are a hell of a lot tougher than before. Not even a same Laker team. I am glad we won 2 straight titles and that is something special, but the last 2 seasons are in the past. Lets talk about now. If you want to believe in the team and they can turn it around more than I do at this point than fine. But lets stop using the past championships as excuses to believe. I dont think the Mavs or the Spurs really gave a crap that the Lakers are 2 time defending champion.

  12. Here are some switches that might be flip-able (i.e., credibly within the Lakers’ control):

    1. Kobe’s defensive effort, specifically rotating to the perimeter rather than doubling down low or ‘playing centerfield’
    2. team defense buying into the concept of funneling to the bigs/swifter rotations
    3. pau’s aggressiveness on offense
    4. crisper passes and cuts w/o the ball
    5. maintaining leads by not abandoning strategy in favor of early-offense would-be dagger 3s by kobe, LO, or luke (!!)

    here are some others that I would argue are out of the lakers’ hands (switches that can’t reliably be flipped with simply greater focus/effort):

    1. the team’s terrible PnR defense in which they give up the switch with 15 seconds left on the shotclock
    2. uncertain offense from artest
    3. uncertain offense and….
    4. reliably terrible defense from Fish and Blake
    5. erratic play from shannon
    6. bynum propensity for foul trouble
    7. struggle against zones (although I feel a little better about this after last night’s game)

    Looking at this list, I have to say, I am not optimistic about the Lakers ability to threepeat. They should have gotten much better with the additions of Blake and Barnes (and the improved play of Shannon), but somehow, either they have gotten worse or the other elite teams have just gotten, er, better-er, than we have…

  13. Think about the 1992-93 Bulls, the 1997-98 Bulls, and the 2001-02 Lakers. Those were all teams that completed the three-peat. None of them looked as good as they did the season before. In fact, the 1997-98 Bulls were the most “mortal” of all of Chicago’s six championship teams. The 2002 Lakers didn’t have the regular season dominance of the 2000 team. It also lacked the post-season dominance of the 2001 team.

    We have to remember the difficulty of being a two time defending champs. We also have to remember this team has been to three straight Finals. They will not look as crisp and fresh as the reloaded Spurs. They will not be driven as much as Boston. Remember the Celtics came within 12 minutes of winning last year’s title. That has to be burning them still. They are extra motivated.

    The game six beat down in 2008 sharpened the Lakers focus and motivated them to a 65-17 record the next season. Now with back to back titles the opposite is happening. It doesn’t mean they can’t win the title. But all signs say they won’t dominate the regular season.

    Lastly, none of the other three-peat teams mentioned above finished the regular season with the top overall seed. In fact, the 1993 Bulls had only the third best record in the league that year. So what we are seeing from the Lakers is not all that surprising considering their circumstances.

  14. Joe, you’re completely missing the point. I am talking about now, and only now. That is in direct contrast to people who keep bringing up ‘statement games’ and making dire predictions about what will happen in May or June. None of that matters on January 20th. What matters is that Pau has been struggling for several weeks, Blake has completely disappeared, and the team as a whole seems bewildered by the pick-and-roll.

    Hey, if you want to waste your time predicting what will happen in the playoffs, be my guest. A bit contradictory though if your message is ‘let’s talk about now’. The playoffs don’t start until the end of April if I’m not mistaken.

  15. @11, if you don’t think Mavs or Spurs gave a crap that they were playing the 2 time defending champion Lakers, then that would go a long way to explaining the disconnect between how you’re looking at the motivation angle and how many others here are looking at it.

  16. 14, all I meant by that was the Mavs and Spurs are not afraid of the Lakers. I believe it is important for this team to win some of these big games to plant seeds of doubt in these teams minds come playoff time. Homecourt would not hurt either as close as these teams are to each other. Its a pity though that people are not placing a high importance on the regular season. People are still bringing the past seasons in their argument that have nothing to do with right now.

    #12. Yes, I did not expect the Lakers to have a dominant regular season. But you make it sound like your saying the Lakers really should not be as motivated to play as hard as these other teams. I mean, yes, PJ has3 three peats. A chance for number 4 this year! 12 rings! If I am the Lakers I would be motivated as all get out to give him that 12th ring.

  17. I hate to say it, but we didn’t necessarily play that great last year during the regular season either. It might look like it on paper, but we did require 6 Kobe Bryant game winning shots….and most of them were against teams that aren’t too spectacular. Of course we won those games, but it doesn’t mean that we were playing that fantastic during those games if we required the game winner.

    Of course, I don’t feel solid about this years team, but I’m still cautiously optimistic.

  18. I fell into this trap last season, when trying to compare it to the year before.

    In 2008-09, the Lakers seemed to win every big “statement” game, starting with the Celtics on Christmas Day and including two wins over the Cavs. It was as if they needed to prove to the league, and perhaps themselves, that the Finals loss to Boston was history and the Lakers were indeed a championship contender again.

    Last season, they went the other way, losing what I felt were “statement” games against the Cavs, Boston, Blazers and Nuggets, among others. I recall typing on this very site my opnion that last season’s Lakers were lacking the desire from the prior season, and my belief that that would lead to their early demise come playoff time. They dropped seven of their final 11 regular season games, and we all know what came next.

    Also, I hated the Jordan-era Bulls. I distinctly recall times later in their second three-peat when they went on skids in the regular season and my heart leaped, thinking, “They’re not as good this year; they can be beaten; they’re vulnerable… these losses prove as much.” And then the playoffs started, Phil and his staff had time to devise a way to beat one opponent at a time, and they had another parade in Chicago, much to my chagrin.

    Or look at Boston last season, who mailed in two-thirds of the regular season and still came this close to winning it when the games mattered most. They, like L.A., knew the difference between the playoffs and December.

    For those reasons, I’m still not pulling the panic button on this year’s team. There’s still a lot of basketball to be played, including the games that really count.

  19. And Chris ask yourself a question. If Boston had homecourt in the finals, would the Lakers still have won? Maybe, but I honestly would have put my money on Boston. If Boston had a better 2/3’s of the season they may have won it all. I look at it like every game matters. It is possible that one regular season game can decide a championship or second place. I understand no team can win them all and I dont expect us to win every game. But if the Lakers were not as arrogant and took the games more seriously from the beginning, which Kobe himself said was not the case, the Lakers could be in a better position right now.

  20. And yes guys, if two teams are evenly matched, homecourt can be the deciding factor. That mental edge could be the deciding factor. It is not always just about how the team plays come playoff time

  21. 11, I’m not quite sure what you’re looking for. Reasons to believe? Believe in what? That the Lakers are “capable” of winning the championship this year? If so, they’ve given you that. They’re 1st in the division, 2nd in the conference, and 3rd in the league. Are you telling me that teams like Cleveland, Orlando, Dallas, etc. weren’t “capable” of winning the championship last year? Because those teams finished about the same or better than the Lakers in the regular season last year. Sure they didn’t reach the Finals, but does that mean they weren’t capable?

    If anything, Boston reaching Game 7 of the Finals last year should be evidence enough that the regular season doesn’t mean much. Boston showed absolutely no signs of being capable of winning a championship before the playoffs actually started (they even had a tough time with Chicago in the 1st round). But they turned it on when it mattered and pushed the Lakers to the brink.

    To be frank, I don’t think you’re looking for whether the Lakers are “capable” of winning the championship this year. You’re looking for something much stronger than that. I would call it domination; you would probably call it something like playing up to their ability.

    I’m not happy about the way the Lakers have been playing recently either. But I don’t think we should be looking for the spark of a championship at this point in the year. All we want are signs of improvement. There will almost assuredly be some peaks and valleys, but all we’re really looking for is a slow upward trend.

  22. Zephid, I believe the Lakers have to have more urgency right now. I dont believe in your philosophy, “regular season don’t mean much, lets just wait until playoffs.” Again, if Boston played a better regular season and had homecourt would they have won?? Lakers also beat Boston 2 times during that season. Did that maybe play into it just a little bit? It is quite simple, you underestimate the importance that the regular season can have. I understand if this team cannot perform at their best right now, but the lack of focus this team has had all season is inexcusable.

  23. Sorry Joe, but I’m not drinking that Kool-Aid this year. Last year our team sucked at times during the regular season. How did that turn out for us? You say that teams don’t care that the Lakers are the 2 time defending champs and I couldn’t disagree with you more. Every team gives the Lakers their best effort when the Blue and Gold rolls into town.

    -Chris J.- You are spot on when you bring up what the Bulls did in the ’90s and what Boston did last year. The regular season isn’t as important as staying healthy and not showing your hand for the playoffs.

    Here’s a question for you. Does Phil Jackson game plan for teams during the regular season? Do you think that we will play the Mavs/Spurs/Celtics/Heat the same way in the playoffs that we do now in the regular season? I guarantee you that Phil will have brand new wrinkles on defense that he will throw at these teams. When we game plan these teams for a 7 game series it will be much different.

    I would much rather the Lake Show fly under the radar for the regular season and bring it in the Playoffs. Anyway that’s how I have come to look at it after the last few years because let’s be honest…this team doesn’t care about the regular season that much so why should we get so damn worked up over something we have no control over!?

    Wake me when the Playoffs start.

  24. aargh! didn’t we go through all this doubt last year, like a million times, and didn’t we all learn to chill out and wait until the playoffs, when the games really matter? Can we beat the Spurs in SA in a game 7? Of course. So relax…

  25. anyone have a link to the game?

  26. Boston is both the perfect and the worst example. While I would *always* rather have HCA, really Boston is the only team for which I think we would need it– i.e, where I think we really would be at a serious disadvantage without HCA (I would have said the same about Cleveland last year). Playing a huge game in Miami or Dallas doesn’t scare me at all and we already know we can win massive games in Orlando or SA.

  27. I don’t think the issue is “flipping the switch”, it’s “we’ll win enough”. When it comes to home court advantage, the Lakers play as if, when all is said and done, they will have a strong enough record to make things work. Just look at the playoffs – they frequently seem to play with a “first one to play four good games” mentality. It’s quite strange for a team that practices Zen Buddhism and preaches about taking things one game, one possession, one moment at a time.

    That said, what makes me feel good about the composition of this team is their performance in close out games. Looking at the past three years, you have to feel good about their one-game-for-everything games. In 2008, we were 3-1 (won three closeout games, lost an opposing closeout game against Boston); in 2009, we were 4-1 (lost in a closeout game against Houston, the weirdest series ever); in 2010, we were 5-0 (won four closeout games and one opposing closeout game).

    Moral of the story – when it REALLY counts, they will show up…hopefully.

  28. Any chance Kobe scores the 52 points needed to pass Hakeem and the Lakers still beat Denver tomorrow?

  29. This team, in all its many variations, has been flipping the switch on a fairly regular basis, for a very long time. And, one of the problems with chronic flipping is that the switch can start to get loose, prone to shorts or non-responsive behavior. The team rarely plays complete games these days, they play in parts and they still think it’s their’s to turn on and off at will.

  30. @ Joe — Don’t get me wrong; I’m in no way advocating that the Lakers give away games in the regular season. I hate seeing them lose to anyone, in particular the “statement” games. And I’m sure Boston wishes it had had home court last year as well. Each point you made is a good one.

    All I’m saying is we shouldn’t discount the Lakers’ chances to repeat simply because they haven’t set the world in fire before the All-Star break.

    Anyone who questions whether the Lakers can turn it on when it matters most should watch a reply of the fourth quarter of Game 7 vs. Boston. I’ve never seen a Laker team play defense like that, and if not for some lucky/clutch threes in the last 90 seconds Boston was basically shut down that entire period.

  31. I genuinely do not care who the Lakers lose to in the regular season and I genuinely do not share Joe’s sense of urgency. The Lakers are fine. As long as they are healthy, I’m fully confident they can beat anyone in a 7 game series.

    They look to me about the same as last year. Also, getting Barnes back will be nice.

  32. I’m not really sure that anyone is saying that the Lakers can’t turn it on when it counts, but to some of us, it’s starting to get a little worrying that they aren’t putting in enough reps with the switch turned on. I am very confident that the coaching staff will be able to devise a brilliant scheme for each playoff opponent, what is becoming less clear is whether the players will be able to execute these schemes well enough for them to work.

    I am absolutely willing to admit that the games themselves have a way of creeping into my subconscious on an emotional level and becoming little metaphors for the season as a whole (see-they tried to flip the switch against Dallas, but it didn’t work! It likewise won’t work in the playoffs!), but the more realistically troubling thing is that they don’t seem to be cultivating the habits of a champion – doing the little things, playing consistently with energy, playing together, playing smart, etc.

    To mix the metaphors, the question isn’t whether or not they can flip the switch, the question is whether or not they will be on the same page when the light comes on.

    Let’s be honest – this team has rarely played up to their potential, and has been very lucky that it hasn’t come back to bite them, and it’s hard not to feel that their luck is going to run out at some point.

    Every time you flip a coin, there is a 50% chance it will turn up heads, no matter what the previous flips were, and likewise, every time the Lakers blow a defensive assignment, the shot has a much higher chance of going in, no matter how many times they’ve gotten away with it in the past.

    What if Yao hadn’t gone down (or Garnett for that matter), or Courtney Lee’s layup had dropped? What if Durant’s 3 goes in at the end of game 2 last year? Or Artest gets blocked out on Kobe’s air ball, or Boston has home court?

    All championships are built on some bit of luck, which makes it all the more amazing when one team is able to string together multiple championships. I think I speak for a lot of us when I say that what this whole issue comes down to is that I really wish the Lakers would just play up to their potential, thus reducing the luck element to as low as it could be. Easier said than done, of course, but we’re just fans, and that’s all we have, to say and to watch what’s done.

  33. Joe, I’m completely on board with you. As a competitor, losing at anything should piss you off. I’m sorry, but do people actually set out to lose? Is that their goal? Because if it’s not, then if you don’t win, you basically didn’t accomplish your goal. I don’t care if it’s a game of checkers against your 5-yr old brother or an NBA game, you should always hate to lose and you should always care! Unless, of course, you want to be just that, a loser.

    Now, with that being said, should we expect the Lakers to win every game? Of course not! No team ever will! And when we do lose, does that necessarily mean the world is ending and we have no shot at winning a title? Of course not as well!

    I don’t think that being pissed off after a game where we played like crap and lost automatically equates to giving up on the team and no longer believing in their chances to win a championship. I don’t think anyone on here has jumped ship. An no matter how frustrated we are, we’ll be right back in front of the TV for tip off of the next game rooting them on.

    So IMO, I think it’s ok to be annoyed or frustrated because I, like Joe, am a firm believer that every game matters. Not just from a standpoint that as an athlete, it should come natural to think that way, but also because games in the reason can have an impact on the playoffs. HCA is very important in my mind. Can we win without it? Of course we can. But if it’s being offered to me, I’d rather have it than not. And guess what, it’s completely within our control. It’s not like David Stern makes start the season with 20 losses. We’re not at some disadvantage to gain HCA. So why not take it?

    Now with all this being said, I completely still believe in their ability to win a title. I just wish the team, and more fans, had the attitude that every game counts. Who knows, maybe they do. You can’t win them all, but they should all matter. Otherwise, if the regular season didn’t matter and only the playoffs did, why don’t we rest everyone and play just barely hard and well enough to get the 8th seed????

  34. As a fan, I would love to see my team ALL the games they play. Either a statement game or a game against a sub par team matters to me. But having followed this Laker team, frustration and drama is always attached to them before giving us fans the ultimate joy of winning it all (championship). For this laker team, this statement games may or may not matter come playoff time. But one thing I am sure about is that a healthy and complete line up would be the most important thing when the REAL season begins. Best example for this is the lakers themselves, last year they have shown that they can win playoff games anywhere as long as they are complete and healthy as evidenced by the first three rounds. However, when the finals came we realized the need for a healthy and complete line up as this was evidenced by the injured Bynum which exposed our shortcomings even at home against boston. Had we played a healthy Bynum would anyone here thought of a game 6 or 7 against Boston? My point is let them cruise in the regular season and have fhem fresh and healthy when it matters most. HCA is indeed precious but true champion will win it ALL be it at home or away.

  35. Guys guys guys!

    The whole point of the regular season is to have fans lose confidence, gain confidence, lose confidence and so on. It is what binds fans to their franchises, by experiencing the up and downs.

    It doesn’t really matter what you believe, it matters that you follow. The closer you follow, the more up and downs you will experience, but also the more attached and knowledgeable you’ll be of your team.

    With that in mind, let’s not rile people for ‘having lost confidence’ because it should be happening to fans when your team is playing bad. I personally feel so bad that I don’t want to visit any of the online forums after a loss.

    Having said that, I still hold to what I thought in the pre-season, which is:

    1. We have enough talent and will to win barring an injury.
    2. The Heat will be good but we won’t see them in the Finals.
    3. We’ll be in the Finals, put up a good fight, and likely win again.

    Right now we’re squeaking by just enough on No.1, i still don’t see the Heat getting past big teams in a seven game series, and even with the Mavs and the Spurs going strong, they won’t have enough to win 4 out of 7 against us.

  36. Guys, I also believe the Lakers will be a better team come playoff time. Phil always has his teams prepared around that time. But I honestly don’t think the Lakers are good enough to just beat anyone as long as they “play well.” Many people and not just me think other teams have caught up. The Spurs, if they get homecourt have enough firepower and experience to beat us. We may need homecourt in that situation, but just maybe you know. My mentality is play hard every game and come with full focus on both end of the floors. If the Lakers lose fine, as long as they played their hardest and came to the game with full focus. We all know that is not fully there for them yet, and that is frustrating to me because when I play anything, I go all out to win because I hate to lose. You guys probably think I am crazy, but keep in mind I am from the Philly area, and if you know us, we don’t take losing lightly when we know our team should be playing better.

  37. Many of you guys have a lot of faith in this team. I do too believe it or not. But think about it…most of that faith comes from the previous seasons. Stuff that happened last year. If the Lakers did not win the last two years, would you still believe in them based on what you have seen this year? Ok, maybe you would still believe in them, but would you really like their chances? Idk guys, I am a more of here and now kind of guy, a realist based on what I have observed in the current season. I think the current season of a team tells you more about that team than the last season. But in any case, that is just how I am. For those of you who believe, whatever your reason may be, good for you. It is good that you believe in the team. There are people like me who will criticize and ones who will choose not to and take a more positive perspective.

  38. Everyone just needs to relax. Even with all the bad losses, in the first half of the season, they were 30 – 11; that’s on pace for 60 wins, which would obviously be more than last year. You also have to consider they didn’t have Bynum for a long stretch there as well. This team is obviously capable of winning the title, and if healthy, I believe they will do just that. How many times do these guys have to pull through when it matters for people to stop doubting them based on regular season performance?

  39. Who is it that have caught up?

    Miami has arrived as the new kid in the club, and how good they will be is still impossible to say.

    But I am still not convinced about the Spurs. They are lacking what made them champions the other years. Duncan is no longer the stopper he once was. They are good, but they might be less Spurs-like, and with that, less build for the playoff-grind.

    Dallas, now loosing Butler, are not much better than in years past. It is a great offensive team, but can they buggle down and stop the Lakers’ many options?

    Boston and Orlando aren’t much different from years past, which makes them tough, but nothing the Lakers haven’t done before.

    Everything still seems perfectly possible, and I kinda, sorta understand why the players are restless and unfocused… it has not started yet.

  40. Joe, I understand your thinking, but it’s appropriate to view last season as a statement for this season, because they are playing this season keeping in mind that they’ve won it last year. And if they wouldn’t have, their play right now would be better (see 2008 Finals loss and 2009 dominant regular season).

    Also, I don’t think they don’t want to win regular season games, they just don’t trying to be a hungrier team every night. And it’s working most of the nights, we’re 3rd best team right now. If it wouldn’t have worked, they’d put more effort to win games (see their 2-4 games losing streaks and more effortful games after that). And if it does work game after game, they tend to lower their effort, that’s why their winning streaks not last long. That’s my theory, anyway.

    I personally think it’s good for a team to have some skids in the regular season. You can’t win without loosing, without facing adversity. There’s little use in blowing out teams in the regular season like Cleveland did last two seasons. For the Lakers now every game is a learning process, they have some new players, some players took bigger roles (Bynum, Shannon), etc. So, for me, issues like Blake finding his offensive groove or Bynum and Pau playing better together is more important than HCA and losing games once in a while.

    And it’s not like we had no chance against SA and Dallas in those games with them. We had an impressive second quarter at SA with Kobe on the bench mostly; Bynum, being still not 100%, played good against heralded SA big men; and all this with SA being on the roll and we’re having our worst stretch this season. And against Dallas, we had no problem with the zone until we’ve started to force things on offense, culminating in Luke’s infamous two shots; and our defense was pretty good on some possessions in the fourth quarter, when Dallas was hitting nearly everything, forcing one (the one I remember) shot clock violation. So it’s not only about losing and winning in the regular season, it’s about competing, having/finding good matchups, finding holes in opposition defense and offense, etc.

  41. When Kobe is out,offense and defense stalls.Simple as that.Two cents.

  42. Uhhh Thedane…..the Spurs have been nearly unbeatable all season long. Duncan may not be the same, but he doesnt need to be. They got plenty of other weapons. Many in that group including Duncan have championship experience, and they are very well coached. That is a team I would not want to play come playoff time. And Orlando is not the same anymore. Richardson is a new weapon they got, and Turk is back. Plus Nelson is healthy, they are a much more dangerous team than when we faced them in the finals two years ago. And the Celtics, who almost beat us last year, has a better team this year. Rondo is even better, Garnett is actually playing better when he has not been out. If you ask me, they are a much more complete team than the Lakers when they are healthy. While the Heat have only 3 players that worry you, you hav to remember that they are all superstars. If all 3 of them are at their best come playoff time, it could be an issue. These are teams well capable of beating the Lakers in a 7 game series.

  43. Lots of good stuff in this thread. First thread I’ve enjoyed reading through the comments, full of intelligent and insightful stuff in a long time.

    I have one comment about your post 36, Joe. You say that the other teams have “caught up.” My rebuttal to you is that they were “always there.” Just because the Lakers won last year doesn’t mean they were a cut above all the other teams in the league; they had some lucky breaks and got some pretty good matchups in the playoffs. Cleveland and Orlando had better regular season records; the top 5 teams in the West were all within 4 wins of the Lakers. Are you saying that throughout last year, the Lakers were clearly the best team in the league, and thus that’s why they won the championship? You’ve been here a number of years now, and I know there’s no way you believed that at the time.

    It’s true the Lakers haven’t played well, and we’d love it if they played well every game. But the reality is that it’s not going to happen. And I think if any of us played 3, 100+ game seasons in a row, we’d also care a lot less about most of the regular season games.

    Regarding HCA, yes it is important, but you should take a look at this post by Dex on SSNR about the Lakers in “must-win” games in the playoffs. When they’ve needed to win, they’ve done, even on the road (except against Boston in 08).

  44. First off Zephid, whatever the Lakers did previous years in the playoffs is in the past. A history of what the team has done doesnt really matter much. They got must wins the years before, well no crap, they won the championship 2 straight years. New season this year. While it may give them the confidence they can win the big games again, that history thing alone does not mean much to me.

    And you are absolutly right. Other teams may have been just as good as LA the previous season. And yes, I complained last year too and doubted this team. And believe me, I am definitely one that will say the Lakers getting favorable matchups helped them out plenty in the playoffs. I hope they get some this year too. But just because it worked out last year (again history) does not really say much of anything this year, in my opinion. Even you have to admit, the Spurs if they play them come playoff time, will be their greatest Western conference challenge yet. We are talking about a team that has the tools to beat the Lakers.

  45. I (like everyone else) has been hearing a lot this season about Kobe moving up the NBA career scoring list. Currently in 9th place and moving into 8th in a couple of games (52 more pts). Obviously an incredible feat.

    However I’m far more impressed about another mark Kobe is about to pass. And in so doing, join a group of NBA players (all HOF’s) which currently only number 6. As of this writing, Kobe is only 26 assist shy of becoming only the 7th player to have 25,000+ pts, 5,000+ rebounds, & 5,000+ assists. He would be joining Kareem, The Mailman, MJ, The Big O, John Havlicek, & The Logo as the only players in NBA history to accomplish this awesome feat.

    Kobe Bryant: not just a scoring machine.

  46. Joe,
    A few points…

    1). History does matter. It matters to other teams that place a bullseye on the Lakers every night. And it matters to the Lakers who can use it as a tool to help them in future games. One of the points I made after the 2008 loss to the Celtics was that collective inexperience of the Lakers mattered when facing a veteran, playoff tested team in Boston. Boston may not have had a bunch of guys that had won championships, but they did have guys that had made multiple deep playoff runs that had hardened them as players and created a foundation for their team as they got deeper and deeper into the season. The following year, the Lakers used their gained experience as a tool to win a title of their own. They then further built on that to win another title last season. Experience may not matter as much as talent or health, but it matters just because it’s a part of the growth process of a team. To ignore that is say that the only things that matter are tangible (like talent) when we all know (with references to luck or the bounce of a ball, you too have at least acknowledged this) that this isn’t the case.

    2). Winning a championship is hard and a lot of times can’t be predicted regardless of how the regular season plays out. On one hand you speak about match ups in past years mattering a great deal and then on the other tout how this year will be different if the match ups break in a less favorable manner. What’s the point of talking about who the Lakers *may* play when it’s who they *will* play that matters most? Not to mention how both teams are playing when they do face off (as well as a bunch of other factors). This brings me to my last point…

    3). Unlike other teams, the Lakers are built for *both* regular season and playoff success, BUT I’d say that they’re best built for the playoffs. The Lakers coaches rarely create very specific opponent based game plans but rather focus on what they have to do successful on any given night to win. Normally that is a post centric offense with few wrinkles to break down that specific team. However, over the years, I think we’ve all seen that during the playoffs the Lakers coaches take their game planning to another level and are able to dictate more to opponents. Even in losses to the Suns (in the Kwame/Smush days) the Lakers were able to push a superior team simply through the nature of the plan formulated.

    In the end, this isn’t to say that the Lakers are going to win a championship. As I’ve stated, I have no clue if that will happen or not. But, I’m optimistic that they’ll put their best game forward in attempting to do so. For some reason, you are pessimistic that this can happen and that’s where I’m confused. I don’t ask for faith in what’s unknown. But this goes back to the concept of history mattering. This Lakers team is essentially the same one that’s won in the past. Even if other teams have improved (and I think they have) that doesn’t mean the Lakers have forgotten how to play good basketball or that the coaches have forgotten how to formulate a game plan to help neutralize the strengths of an opponent. These aren’t things that are forgotten just beause the calendar changed to 2011.

  47. TheDane – I agree with Joe, the Spurs are a very, very good team. Yes, they’re different – much more offensively driven this season. Pop retooled the system and it worked. This record of their’s isn’t some early season anomaly, it’s a reflection of their play. The odds favor us seeing them in the western finals and it’s going to be a war.

  48. Darius, I agree with you about the history. I did not mean history don’t matter at all, I did say that it can help with their confidence. I said that clearly in a comment before yours. But whenever people give their reason of why they are still confident in this team, it always goes back to their previous years. I get the Lakers are better built for the playoffs and have shown it in the past season, I even said they would play better come playoff time. Just from what I have seen this season, I dont like their chances as much. And much of that has to do with a much deeper Western conference, not all of just the way the Lakers have played. I don’t know if the Lakers will win a championship either, but I believe they just need to play more consistently harder and with more focus each game. If they go to the finals and lose game 7 this year in BOSTON, well if the Lakers put a little more into the regular season it could have been played in LA. You may say it is too early to be thinking that, but that is not an entirely unlikely situation that could occur.

  49. To tell you the truth, this is going to be my last post for this thread. All I am really trying to say is, I think the team needs to put a little more emphasis into these regular season games, which they get paid millions of dollars to play and I basically have got bashed by everyone except Noles.

  50. #49. Joe,
    To be fair, you’ve done more than just say the regular season is important and thus these losses can be damaging to long term prospects. You’ve argued more to the point that these games plant serious seeds of doubt about how good this team actually is and that based off how they’re playing *now* it leads you to think that they’re unlikely to be successful in the future. I think the pushback you’ve gotten is that while folks agree with the “not playing as great now” part, they may not want to take that next step that it damns the team’s future prospects.

    You’ve admitted in the past to having a pessimistic view overall, and then have argued the point throughout that your pessimism should be more of the accepted point of view and it’s all been based off the team’s performance up to this point in the season. Other’s just aren’t there (yet).

    In the end though, I think this has been a good thread of comments and different perspectives on where a lot of folks think this team is headed. I’ll be the first to admit that I’d like to see them play better, but don’t always place the same value on the (current) results as others. They obviously matter, but how much and for what reasons is up for debate. But, then again, I tend to be more optimistic.

  51. Ugghh, I cant help but place one more post. Just to defend myself, I actually may be a pessimist more than an optimist, I actually think I am being a realist, based on what I have seen from them this season so far. I think what it comes down to is, you guys place more emphasis on the teams past history and less on what you have seen form them this season. Again, I know this aint the Laker team we are going to get in the playoffs. I was never implying that this is telling of how the Lakers will play come playoff time. I was going way deeper than that Darius, I said little things like homecourt and mental edges matter. Yes, if a team beats up on you in the regaular season, in my opinion it gives them a mental edge come playoff time. I don’t think I have been well understood throughout this thread.

  52. I don’t think in terms, “If the Lakers just take care of their own business they will win it all.” I think they will need a little help this year. Now I could be mistaking, they could be a lot better than I think, but that is just my opinion. The fact that I believe the Lakers championship last year had a lot to do with favorable matchups (even though I think they were still the best team), is all the more reason this year, with even better teams, that I think they should aim as high in the standings as possible and not let teams like Dallas or the Spurs gain too much confidence against them. That is why I say the regular season is important and why I get worked up when this team does not take it that seriously. I am done, see you all for the game time thread!

  53. Joe-

    You’re pretty damn funny! You keep moving the argument around after someone refutes you. You’re most definitely a pessimist and not a realist. If I read what you wrote I would think the Lakers are just barely going to make a 8th seed for the playoffs instead of most likely a 2nd seed. You make it seem like this team is going to finish 45-37 instead of 58-24. (Or somewhere around there…)

    It’s ok though because we have had pessimists in this forum all the time. Aaron is a prime example. He said many times that we can’t win a title with the Worst point guard in the NBA. Yet we did. Fisher gets torched all regular season by quicker point guards, but in the playoffs what do we do? Oh yeah, we make adjustments and put Kobe on the opposing PG and have Fish guard a weaker player! Phil is the master at making adjustments for a particular team during a particular series.

    Darius and others have been spot on when they say that when you discuss this team you absolutely have to take history into account. Last year we were 57-25 and we sucked at times. Sucked. The playoffs roll around and this team focused because it was all or nothing. Let me give you an example that may or may not do anything at all for you. I love to play poker and I do pretty well doing so. I used to live in Utah, however, and many of my friends would love to play poker, but only play for “fun.” Playing poker for pretend money is like the regular season for this Laker team. Sure if you play correctly you can gain valuable skills and knowledge, but it’s really hard to take it seriously when it doesn’t mean as much. Like it or not…the regular season doesn’t mean as much as the playoffs.

  54. Honestly… the # of wins is usually the only thing that matters at the end of the “regular season”.

    Therefore, if it takes X amount of effort to beat Scrub Team and 1.5X to beat a Playoff Team… Collect your wins over Scrub Teams to conserve energy for a playoff run. Figure it out all in the first round of the playoffs. By maximizing your win (return) on a minimum level of effort (investment), you will have a much less chance of running out of steam as your games drag on into late May and early June.

    As a veteran championship team, you don’t need “confidence builders” until late April at the earliest.