It’s become a habit for the Lakers to lose badly to league cupcakes. They lost by 19 to Milwaukee and Memphis, and yesterday fell by 20 to the Bobcats. And over the course of the season they’ve lost to the Suns, Pacers, Kings, Clippers, and Grizzlies a second time.That may tempt people to ask whether the Lakers are becoming cupcakes themselves. Los Angeles is just 5-5 in its last 10, losers of two straight by double digits.
But the unfortunate reality of an 82-game season, is that these kinds of swoons happen. Every night the Lakers’ opponent gears up to play the two-time defending champs, while the Lakers’ motivation varies, and currently wanes with players eying the coming All-Star break. It’s February, but everyone in purple and gold knows the season doesn’t really start until April. It doesn’t help that the Bobcats match up well with the Lakers, having beat them 8 times in their last 11 meetings. (Maybe they don’t even need Jordan to make a comeback, after all.)
The lone point of stress here is Kobe Bryant. Lakers losses seem to coincide with Bryant falling into his ballhog habits of yesteryear. In his last seven quarters Bryant has outshot the Bynum-Gasol tandem 33 to 28, highlighted by a 20 to 15 differential in last night’s loss. That simply isn’t the recipe for Los Angeles’s success.
At this stage of his career, Kobe doesn’t need to be the focal point of the Lakers offence for 48 minutes. The team is best when they work through their big men, get in a rhythm, and then let Bryant get hot later in the game. Phil Jackson knows this. And while that would be a point of contention for Phil Jackson in the late spring, there’s no reason to attract controversy and stormclouds in February. Not with the Lakers sitting pretty at 38-18, comfortably in third place.
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