It was an odd amalgamation of fits and starts for the first three quarters last night with the Lakers managing to hang in there despite a cuss-ton of turnovers. Credit an overall defensive energy and at long last, a willingness from Coach D’Antoni to let the guys play to their half-court strengths. Halfway through the fourth quarter, Kobe found his range and the world went electric for a few minutes. And then, LeBron happened and there’s only so much you can do about that. Love him or hate him, he’s a player in the prime of his supernova and at least for now, the championship goes through him, not through champions from the past.
In other positives, Pau Gasol returned from his concussion layoff and contributed effectively. Subbing in for Dwight Howard and subsequently playing alongside him, Pau was fed the ball early enough to work in his comfort zone. Again, credit D’Antoni for adjustments and also Nash – there’s a noticeable court chemistry between these two players, especially evident in some nifty screen actions. As far as Gasol being comfortable in any future sixth man role, that’s another thing altogether.
Over at ProBasketballTalk, our own Darius looks at the team’s recent progress and asks if there’s still enough time in the schedule.
Ramona Shelburne at ESPNLA looks at the positives and lessons learned.
Dave McMenamin, also from ESPN, has the rapid reaction to last night’s nip and tuck affair.
Kevin Ding for the OC Register writes that the Lakers don’t yet know how to be winners.
Jeff Miller for the OC Register looks at the energy and effort that was shown against the Heat.
Drew Garrison at Silver Screen and Roll breaks down Earl Clark’s newfound role with the Lakers.
Ben Swanson for SBNation imagines Dwight Howard as a standup comic.
Jeff Caplan at Hangtime Blog says the key is to feed the bigs.
From James Park at Sheridan Hoops – Kobe and T-Mac don’t see their one-on-one the same way.
Rey Moralde has last night’s recap for Lakers Nation.
Old prize fighter analogies have been done to death but there’s a reason they are used. One of my favorite fight stories was written way back when by Jack London, chronicling a journeyman who uses every last trick and still can’t beat the vitality of youth. The Lakers aren’t a team who’ll be able to run their way into the playoffs. Their best hopes lie in marshaling their resources and waiting for the right opening. The problem, is that they’re way behind on points right now and will have to expend an enormous amount of energy just to get into the round of eight. If they make it that far however, there will be some nervous odds-makers – it’s not often that the Lakers get to play the spoiler role. Up next, the Raptors on the road, Sunday.