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NBA Playoffs: The Lakers are just a flipped switch away from another title

Apr 15, 2010, 6:00 AM EDT

Thumbnail image for Gasol_game.jpgIt’s very trendy to be down on the Lakers right now. They’ve given everyone plenty of reasons the last month — spotty execution, horrible outside shooting, questionable defensive rotations and a general malaise.

See, there I go doing it — we act as if these Lakers are that other team in LA. The Lakers won 57 games and won the West going away, despite a number of injuries. (Kobe had a number of injuries all by himself, it just doesn’t keep him out of games). It’s trendy to think the Lakers will fall short, and plenty of people are rooting for the Lakers to self destruct in a spectacular, Lindsay Lohan fashion.

But the reality is, these Lakers can win it all. They did it last year with almost this exact same roster. They know what it takes to climb the mountain. They can flip the switch from how they have played recently. The question is will they.

The reasons they can win are well known.

They have the best starting five in basketball, when healthy. Kobe Bryant is… well, Kobe Bryant. Injured or not, he is Kobe Bean Bryant. He’s a step slower but he gets to his spots on the floor still, and he hits shots nobody else wants to take.

For the last couple weeks, Pau Gasol has been best Laker going. He is scoring 26 a game and shooting 65 percent in the five previous games leading up to Wednesday. He is boarding. He is defending. He is draining the midrange jumper. He is finding space in the offense. He is looking like one of the best fours on the planet.

Andrew Bynum will be a key for the Lakers — when he’s healthy their defense improves dramatically. Let’s face it, at this point Derek Fisher is often little more than an orange traffic cone for speedy guards to dribble around. The Lakers need Bynum to intimidate in the paint.

Ron Artest was brought in to play lock-down defense on wings (he’ll get his first chance against the NBA scoring leader in Kevin Durant) and to provide more hair colors to the Lakers. He has done both during the season, and he can be a better defender in the playoffs where play is usually allowed to be a little more physical.

There’s Lamar Odom and his amazing gifts, which become less enigmatic in the playoffs. Fisher, for all his aging, can be trusted to hit the big shot. Luke Walton is back and with it the second unit looks far more smooth.

What gets overlooked with these Lakers is that when healthy, when focused, this was one of the best defensive teams in the league. They were for much of the season. If they return to that form they can shut teams down.

What really is the Lakers calling card is they have the mental game down. It hasn’t looked that way lately but they do. Phil Jackson has two hands full of rings for a reason. Kobe is tough. Gasol is mentally tough. The Lakers have won a title, been to the Finals two straight years. They know what it takes more than any team in the West.

When you have the mental game to go with all that high-priced talent. You can win it all. They just have to flip the switch.

  1. Chris Humpherys - Apr 15, 2010 at 10:04 AM

    Can L.A. flip the switch?
    I’m not questioning this team’s desire. I’m just wondering if teams like Orlando, Dallas and Cleveland want it more.
    Here’s my playoffs breakdown if you’re so inclined.

  2. Atomsk - Apr 15, 2010 at 10:38 AM

    “Kobe is tough. Gasol is mentally tough”

  3. exhelodrvr - Apr 16, 2010 at 11:10 AM

    FYI, Lindsay Lohan is about to make a comeback!!

  4. nimrod - Apr 16, 2010 at 5:55 PM

    I am a Laker Hater with a capital “H”!! But I am an objective fan of the game of basketball who so happens to reside in the LA area.
    I think that the Cavs will implode and choke like they did last year and not even make it to the finals. With all the star power and team chemistry that exist in Cleveland they will be under the most pressure to win a championship.
    In order for L.B.J. to legitimately earn the ‘greatest’ moniker and game cred, Lebron has to win it this year. After being in the finals once and getting to the Eastern finals twice, it’s time for ‘Bron to take it to the next step. Pressure is a funny thing, you know, and I feel strongly that the Cavs will buckle under again.
    Orlando will emerge out of the East to face the Lakers in which the Purple and Gold will win in 7.

  5. kevin - Apr 17, 2010 at 3:36 AM

    People are creatures of habits>>>>> LBJ will continue to lose it at the apex, the olympics, the finals, LBJ just can not get it done, it is his character. Kobe was the difference this past Olympics.
    The Lakers will continue to allow teams to linger when they could have closed the deal, and the Magic will continue to find a way…not to say that Hawks, Mavericks, Denver and Spurs are non factors, but, anything is possible if Lakers overlook their opponents!!! They have a history of it!! Kobe has a history of it!!! Kobe’s teams have lost a series after being up 3-1, they have lost to Detroit after being unanimously chosen favorite, again favorites against Boston two years ago….and now they are favorites again….it never worries me when they are the underdog, it is when they are FAVORITES that I am most rattled. It is a trademark of Kobe.
    I LOVE Kobe, Idolize his dedication, but, it is his nature to beat down naysayers and relax on top. He loves proving people wrong. KOBE>>>ITS A NEW GAME!!! YOU ARE NOT ON TOP NOW>>> YOU MUST PROVE IT AGAIN!!!! Show the world you ARE as none other can be. WIELD YOUR TEAM AS only you can!!!

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