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The Lakers’ keys to victory

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The Los Angeles Lakers are STILL below .500 and the next 5 games are perhaps their toughest test this season. They face the Clippers, Nuggets, Rockets, Spurs and the Thunder next. We could very well be looking at a 15-21 record by the end of these games.

It seems that every game night, a different Lakers team shows up. This is both incredibly frustrating and a major cause for concern considering the Lakers will eventually face tough competition in a 7-game series come playoff time. Well that’s assuming they even make the playoffs this year. kobe-duhon-denver

If the Lakers’ inconsistency continues throughout the season, it could very well lead to Los Angeles natives watching just the Clippers during the postseason. Fortunately, I believe these problems are very treatable and if they want to turn the season around, they need to fix them soon.

Defense

The D’Antoni offense makes the Lakers a very deadly team offensively, but their defense is what loses them games down the stretch.

Dwight Howard is not yet the same player he was back in Orlando but he is still an imposing inside presence and is very good on help defense but therein lies their problem – who helps the help defender? Nash and Kobe may be the leaders on offense, but Howard and World Peace are their defensive anchors and they can’t do it alone.

As some of the players end up watching Kobe on offense, they do the same with Howard on defense. The Lakers have lost too many games on defensive inefficiency alone.

Too many times have we seen Kobe gamble on a steal only to leave a man open. How many times have we seen a player dribble past Nash and prance around the paint before laying it in without much contention from the likes of Gasol? Or when they kick it out to a shooter with no-one near him because Kobe gambled on a steal? These mistakes are keeping them from being a team with a good record.

Occasionally we see the hustle and intensity required to win games but occasionally is not going to cut it. So why then are they struggling so much on defense?

Offense

“But I thought the Mike D’Antoni offense is working wonders this season?”

As I’ve mentioned, the defense is greatly affected by the way the Lakers play offense. The fact is, the Lakers are not a young team and it definitely shows whenever they play back-to-backs or when they’re up against younger teams like the Sixers or the Thunder.

The average age of the Lakers’ starting lineup is more or less 32.5 years old. Some may scoff at the idea of using age as an excuse, seeing as the Spurs are doing so well with their aging core of Duncan, Parker and Ginobili. Well unfortunately, Mike D’Antoni is not Gregg Popovich. Not only does Popovich take care of his aging stars’ minutes, the Spurs also have much more depth and don’t get me started on the Clippers’ bench.

This falls to Coach D’Antoni and his staff. The Lakers are far from being a young and athletic team that his system is catered to, and in their effort to play like one they end up too tired to play championship defense.

The rest of the team is still accountable of course, and everyone has to adjust. The Lakers have yet to develop cohesion and a sense of identity as a team on offense.

Kobe still reverts to hero-ball which is obviously not the most effective kind of offense. What happened to the high pick-and-roll with Howard, Gasol and Nash that nobody could stop a few games back? Granted, Howard and Gasol played horrendously in their last game, but their pick-and-roll is just unstoppable when the three of them are clicking.

In Howard’s defense, his lackadaisical offense is attributed to his back not being 100% yet. In fact, he was originally scheduled to return around this time during the season so expect him to continue to return to form. Clearly, he’s yet to return to his “superman” level of play but that does not excuse the rest of the team. That leaves it to Gasol to open up the paint, and Kobe to learn to be patient with his bigs to win them games.

They need to further execute their offense through two of the most talented big men in the league. I’m positive that with the personnel they have, they can come up with better possessions than a Kobe Bryant contested 3-pointer down the stretch.

If they want to win big, they have to play big.

About Kenneth S. Natividad

Kenneth S. Natividad is a Filipino college student from the Ateneo De Manila University. An aspiring sports journalist and fellow Lakerholic. For anything and everything Lakers and NBA related, follow him on twitter @kennatividad

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