Mar 10, 2013, 6:03 PM EDT
LOS ANGELES — It’s been a long time in the making, and there’s plenty more work to be done over the regular season’s final 18 games. But for the first time all year, the Lakers can look at the standings and see themselves as an official part of the playoff picture after Sunday’s 90-81 win over the Bulls at Staples Center.
The Lakers are now 33-31 on the season, and sit in the eighth spot in the Western Conference standings, a half-game ahead of the Utah Jazz.
In Friday night’s win over the Raptors, the Lakers needed several shots that were both miraculous and heroic from Kobe Bryant down the stretch to come back and get the overtime victory. They didn’t need much from him offensively in this one, however, thanks to a balanced attack and a strong third quarter from Steve Nash, who scored 10 of his 16 points in the period.
Bryant didn’t even reach double figures in scoring until he hit a three-pointer with 4:52 remaining in the third quarter, which pushed the Lakers lead to 15. He finished with a team-high 19 points, to go along with seven rebounds and nine assists, while five of his teammates finished in double digits.
The Bulls are not known for their offense, and struggled to score in this one. Chicago shot a dismal 37.1 percent from the field, and went just 4-16 from three-point distance. But the defensive effort from the Lakers was stronger than usual, led by an increasingly more active Dwight Howard, whose 21 rebounds helped L.A. dominate the Bulls on the glass for most of the contest.
Chicago was able to cut a lead that once reached 18 points down to eight with just over eight minutes remaining in the fourth, but the Lakers responded by scoring the next five points, while holding the Bulls scoreless for the next three and a half minutes.
More important than this single game victory and the temporary playoff position that it earned the Lakers is the improved chemistry the team is showing on the court. The communication was constant in this one defensively, with players giving their all on loose ball and rebound opportunities, while the body language overall was genuinely positive. The change from the way these guys interacted with each other in the opening months of the season is both noticeable and substantial.
That doesn’t mean there weren’t some bumps along the way — Bryant was furious with Metta World Peace at the end of the first half, after he committed an offensive foul while Bryant was dribbling down the clock to get off a final shot. He yelled at Metta as the two walked back down the floor, but all was forgiven later when Bryant was seen with his arm around his teammate on the bench early in the fourth.
The extent of how much Howard can improve from a health standpoint as the Lakers close out the regular season, along with the amount of chemistry the team can continue to build during that time will largely determine its postseason fate.
Winning can cure a lot of issues, and certainly helps the team-building a lot more than it hurts. At least after Sunday’s victory, L.A. can now, if only briefly, officially see itself as part of the playoff picture.
Oct 2, 2014, 10:20 AM EDT
It’s another year about development.
Oct 2, 2014, 9:48 AM EDT
Celtics president Danny Ainge agrees that’s a fair request
Oct 2, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT
This is a court unlike any other
Oct 2, 2014, 8:30 AM EDT
After 10 years in the league, how much change do we really expect?
Oct 2, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
Gasol chose the polar vortex over the beach.
Oct 2, 2014, 12:25 AM EDT
Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, David Lee and Andrew Bogut dominated last season and return for more
Oct 1, 2014, 11:15 PM EDT
Kobe takes championship-or-bust mentality
Oct 1, 2014, 10:20 PM EDT
George wants to re-join the Pacers for the playoffs
Oct 1, 2014, 9:25 PM EDT
Thunder forward says he doesn’t (unless he’s joking like Kevin Martin)
Oct 1, 2014, 8:30 PM EDT
Get fouled on a missed 2-pointer – one free throw worth two points
Get fouled on a missed 3-pointer – one free throw worth three points
Oct 1, 2014, 7:35 PM EDT
OK, what did I get wrong?
Oct 1, 2014, 6:40 PM EDT
Two young players trying to prove to new coaches they deserved minutes. This is a real setback for both.
Oct 1, 2014, 5:50 PM EDT
The show is on Disney XD. I suppose there are worse things your child could watch.
Man sues Madison Square Garden saying he was ejected from Knicks game for saying “Carmelo, you stink”
Oct 1, 2014, 5:01 PM EDT
A Madison Square Garden spokesman called the lawsuit “frivolous.”
Oct 1, 2014, 4:20 PM EDT
Dirk loves him some Hoff.
Oct 1, 2014, 3:40 PM EDT
Thing is, Rodman fit the triangle and what Jackson wants to do with a team. Smith…. not so much.
Oct 1, 2014, 3:01 PM EDT
Monroe had a busy offseason in terms of appearances in the NBA’s news cycle.
Oct 1, 2014, 2:21 PM EDT
LeBron is taking on a leadership role early in his second stint in Cleveland.
Oct 1, 2014, 1:41 PM EDT
Broken hand is supposed to sideline Rondo for 6-8 weeks.
Oct 1, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT
I list my personal picks for top five backcourts.
- ProBasketballTalk 2014-15 preview: Orlando Magic 0
- Hey John Wall/Dion Waiters, Stephen Curry says Warriors have best backcourt. And he’s right. 43
- ProBasketballTalk 2014-15 Preview: Charlotte Hornets 6
- Kobe Bryant plans to play in all 8 preseason games for Lakers 11
- ProBasketballTalk 2014-15 Preview: Miami Heat 9
- Mike Miller points to him being amnestied as start of LeBron James leaving Miami 15
- Kobe Bryant thinks he could physically play beyond contract extension 14
- Trey Burke, in wake of nude-photo scandal: ‘My judgments will be much better’ 11