All season long, the Lakers have been waiting to get to this point in the season. The playoffs are here and now is the time to defend the championship that was earned last June. As much as fans would have liked for the Lakers to be a more dominant regular season team, that was not in the cards this season. Injuries, chemistry, lack of urgency, and spotty execution all conspired to limit the success of this team. As Phil Jackson admits, it’s a disappointment how the Lakers played at the end of the season and that they were not able to reach their goal of a 60 win campaign. But, that is now all in the past. The second season starts on Sunday and the Lakers have an interesting road ahead that will surely prove quite challenging.
The above paragraph is from an unpublished post from the end of last season. The post that paragraph is lifted from was meant to speak to the Lakers’ playoff philophy and went on to discuss gamesmanship in the media, team specific gameplans, and how Phil Jackson has proven to be a master of the little things that lead to success in the post season.
Today, however, I dig up that paragraph from the archives as reinforcement that this year is not so different from last year. Those sentences could easily describe what the Lakers have been through this season and should serve as a reminder that as low as things are now, the playoffs do represent a different animal entirely.
Last night, Kobe mentioned that the Lakers problems are fixable and that all they need is some good practice time to sort things out. Funny, that’s what I’ve been saying too. Understand, the Lakers aren’t suddenly less tall. Or less experienced. They’ve not forgotten how to win basketball games, nor have they forgotten what works on any given possession to both score and stop the other team from doing so. Their skill level is still intact and their coaches are the same guys that have led champions the past two seasons.
What’s been missing from the Lakers during this losing streak has been attention to detail. The small mistakes were right there, in plain sight for all to see yesterday. On some possessions the spacing was awful. On others a Laker would cut through the lane to set a screen and the teammate that should have held his ground and waited for the pick left too early, disrupting the timing of the entire excercise. On other possessions, a simple post entry that would have set up the strong and weak side actions as the shot clock hit 12 seconds was turned down in favor of swinging the ball back to the top of the key that reset the entire offense with the clock still ticking down. These are small errors that lead to lower efficiency and a disjointed attack. They’re the mistakes that when multiplied over the course of a game, lead to losses.
I get that the Lakers are right there at another low point in a season that’s been littered with too many of them. Before this season, the Lakers weren’t used to losing three games in a row, much less the 4 in a row they dropped earlier this campaign or the 5 game skid they find themselves on now.
But in a few short days the regular season will be a memory. Yes there is business to take care of before that point. The Spurs wait on Tuesday and on the following night there will be an emotional visit to Sacramento where fans fight for their team and the players will hope to send them out with a final victory.
After that though, the second season begins.
Navigating that road will not be easy and will take more than some sort of playoff GPS device that lays out the path to victory. But if there’s one team I inherently trust to play well in the post-season it’s the Lakers. The guys who have been to three straight Finals and claimed the past two Larry O’Brien trophies as their own. Things look down right now, but like Kobe’s technical foul count it will all reset come Thursday morning. At that point, the only thing that stands in the way of advancement is one opponent whose weaknesses will be attacked by players and coaches that have experience in these types of battles. Rinse, repeat. I, for one, am not counting this group out.