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The above paragraph is from an unpublished post from the end of last season.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.
What I like about the playoffs is the clarity it brings. No more excuses about a long regular season, or how we will flip the switch on. There is no room for error in a 7 game series, especially the path the Lakers chose to navigate for the 2011 playoffs. For all the talk about how home court isn’t important, time for the Lakers to upend conventional thought and prove that it really wasn’t that important to fight these last 5 games to have home court.
I’m done with the excuses. They are forgotten. It’s a new season. Let’s go!
As disappointed as I am with the Lakers (Utah? Golden State???), they can still get the #2 seed in the West. If SA slips along the way, the Lakers could have HCA all the way to the finals.
In the Finals, I think HCA with Boston and Chicago matters. Miami, not so much.
The biggest question is whether the 17-1 Lakers or the 0-5 Lakers are going to show up. I think the margin for error is much smaller this year than last. But the Lakers have a healthy Bynum this year (knock on wood). I’m starting to get excited.
It is sorta funny.
When they went 17 for 18 (after All-Star break), stats showed only Champions had done that before.
Now they’ve lost 5 straight, and stats say that no champions have done that.
So are this year’s Lakers destined to be champions, or destined to be losers?
The answer is “yes”.
I hate to call you out (that’s not true:) but you do a great job of bringing up small things like strategies and offensive execution. But as we all know the most important variable in deciding games and seasons is talent on the court and health. It’s hard to break down health… So I’d like to see a post regarding the Lakers talent on the floor at the end of games. The second best Center in the NBA and the Lakers most consistent player since the All Star break not on the floor in crunch time? I’m guessing you have been in the process of putting together a write up and that’s why you haven’t commented on it yet.
This team is built for a 7 game series. That’s where Phil and his staff really shine, and that’s where the championship experience comes through. I think the Lakers will be ready, and I still think they’re going to be a real tough group to beat 4 out of 7 times.
Gr8 Scott says
The playoffs are an itch this team so desperately wants to scratch. We’ve heard it said countless times that the games before the GAMES can be difficult for defending champs to get up for. That’s not an excuse, but in reality it can be hard to get amped to play 48 minutes of perfectly executed ball against a lesser team when you’ve experienced the exhilaration of winning a tense game 7 for all the marbles. Our bench needs to find some consistency and we must establish a steady inside-out approach. If the ball moves quickly, opposing defenses will be at our mercy. And lastly, remember that many a tough playoff game has come down to half-court execution. This is THE core strength of this team. I also think this year’s team relishes the opportunity to win some series without having HCA. It would be helpful if we could sew up the #2 seed, but that remains to be done. I’m ready for the real season to start…Go Lakers!
A pretty interesting read from C.A. Clark over at SSR. Can’t say it instilled me with a whole lot of confidence.
Darius Soriano says
#7. I’m working on something that ties in what C.A. wrote to what Aaron asked in his comment (#4). Just with that sentence, you can probably see where I’m going with this…
On a positive note, the Lakers have atually only lost two regular season series all year, at least that I am aware of. The Heat and Denver. If the Spurs beat us on Tuesday they will be the third. I think sometimes one team needs a win more than another team. The Thunder needed to win that game Sunday. They already lost to us the 2 previous times and they needed to prove to themselves they could beat us. The same with Portland on Friday. That aside, I still think this team makes it to the finals, but I don’t like their chances of winning. This team has proved all season that they are highly beatable and not having homecourt is going to be a factor in my book. The Lakers have weaknesses and teams no how to take advantage of them it seems. Having no production whatsoever from point guard and poor bench production may be too much to overcome. I hope I am wrong.
The Lakers will be fine. They are tired but at least healthy going into the postseason. Say what you will about Phil but there is no better general going into battle.
Anyways, next week this time we will be up 1-0 regardless who our first victim is and the countdown begins. In the end Kobe and Fish will be sporting: “3-peats R’ Us” T-shirts. Hey, I should trademark that.
it looks like IF lakers lock up 2nd seed in the west that will mean #4 seed overall–behind spurs, bulls and the heat! just 10 days ago we thought the lakers had a shot at the spurs!!
celtics have decided to rest their starters which is why they lost to the wizards tonite.
hopefully, mavs continue to lose to rockets tonite, and our guys can get some rest–but only after we beat spurs.
don’t we prefer the mavs win so they stay in 3rd over OKC, and hope we win out?
Only thing that really worries me is that (from the Kevin Ding article Phillip linked to earlier), it doesn’t seem like Phil Jackson really wants to go to Bynum in crunch time. Obviously he doesn’t always say what he’s really thinking with the media, but from what he did say, it still seems like he thinks Odom’s quickness and versatility defensively is more important than Drew’s contributions.
I refuse to believe the greatest coach of all time can’t see the weakness of our interior defense when Drew is out. So I continue to hold out hope we’ll start seeing Drew at the end of games as the games get more meaningful – but I am a bit nervous, as more and more time passes and we don’t see it.
Dallas won in OT and OKC won:
David R. says
One of two outcomes; Lakers play the perfect game, or they drop it. im going for the Perfect game, because a team with Kobe Bryant should never be counted out. – Lakers all day, can’t wait for these playoffs to start!
totally OT, and I’m not sure anyone cares at this point.. but lacking any other venue I’m going to whinge a bit about the so-called fantasy league playoffs.
1) I guess everyone that matters caught on to this, but where/when was it announced that the last round would be ten days instead of seven? why change the format for the most important round of the year?
2) having the playoffs depend on the last few games of the year reads pretty high on the bogusometer. strange things happen in these games. the defensive player of the year (totally based on rebounds and blocks) sits out a game(?). the C’s Big Four sits out a game. players like KLove, a stats machine, are shut down for the year because nothing’s at stake.
I’m just sayin’.
Darius Soriano says
#16. The rules to the league were posted under its “settings” the entire season. That said, I – and everyone else that plays fantasy sports – feel your pain because what you’re describing happens to people every year. There’s no way to avoid it unless you limit the number of playoff teams to eliminate the last week of the season. As the commisioner, I chose to include more teams so that more people had a chance to win. So, I suppose, you can blame me.
17 – Darius, in most leagues you’re able to move up the starting week for the playoffs. That’s what we do in my league to avoid all the random benchings.
Gabriel R. says
If there were ever a team ready for the regular season to end and the playoffs to start, it is this one.
Hopefully, that’s a good thing!
Darius Soriano says
#18. If we do a league next year (honestly, I was overwhelmed this year with the leagues that I hosted), I’ll look into that. I’m normally not a comissioner of a league so I’m still getting used to all the things that can be done to make it better. Thanks for the tip.
20 – Darius, I’d be happy to help with that next year. Just fire me an e-mail (email@example.com) when the time comes.