The Lakers celebrate 2013 with a W. Magic and Big Game can now sigh, take a deep breath, and reee-laaax until the next L. 13 days and 6-straight losses into the new year and the Lakers endured a bevy of criticism, including rants from their HOFs weighing in on everything from absent effort to lacking leadership. Even the arrival of the 9-30 Cleveland Cavs, a sure fire remedy for the free falling Lakeshow, didn’t allay as many fears as necessary, considering they showed up the flat Lakers at the Quicken Arena in December.
Yet, a mending Dwight returning to the lineup cut some of the pea soup thick gloom circling Staples as many fare weathers contemplated shopping for Clippers gear. Dwight delivered his standard double-double of 22 points and 14 boards, while tallying 7 TOs as he shook off the rust from his layoff due to a bum shoulder. Kobe added 23, leading a more efficient charge from three, hitting 3-4, as the Lakers hit the court ready, shooting 65% in the first quarter and running out to a 37-20 lead.
Fast starts have been the simplistic answer for the Lakers, who even when they jump out to a lead have a tendency to charitably let opponents back into the game. Gatsby and Morris held Kyrie Irving to 15 points, a far cry from his 28-point and 11-assist explosion a month ago, as they added 10 and 14 points themselves. Steve dished out 9 helpers and only 3 TOs. Solid efforts by Antawn and Earl Clark, platooning at PF until the Lakers’ medical staff clears Pau’s head, scored 16 and 13 a piece, and kept the lead intact as the Lakers flirted with a blowout, but settled for a 10-point win.
At this point, any win is a good one, and, as the Lakers head into a softer version of the schedule, the need to pile up some numbers for the left column grows ever so steadily. With the playoff gap sitting at four games, the Lakers must aim for .500 before the All-Star break. The remaining nine January games include three teams with records worse than the Lakers (@TOR, NOH, @PHO), four road games (@CHI, @MEM), and home stands against the two best teams in either conference, the Heat and the Thunder.
The Lakers languish at 5 games below the watermark, so they must win the obvious ones and find ways to beat the Bucks and the Jazz, assuming they don’t shock the world and over achieve against the league’s elite.
That might be asking too much, but with Pau on the horizon, the Lakers could build some serious momentum with a win over a vaunted opponent. But, as Mike D eloquently stated in his post-game presser, “It’s a baby step, but it is a step.” Win the games you are supposed to win, and this snowballing winter of discontent might just create an avalanche roll of Ws for Showtime2.