Dwight Howard dominates the paint on both ends, Kobe Bryant plays less than 30 minutes for the first time this season, Steve Nash runs the offense with precision, the defense has its best game in weeks and the Lakers run away with a 20-point win in their Sunday home whites.
So, everything’s back to normal again in Tinseltown, right?
Who cares that it was against the Cavaliers, who lose three of every four games they play? Or that Cleveland was missing Anderson Varejao, their best rebounder, post defender and energy player? Or that Howard and Bryant were primarily matched up against rookies Tyler Zeller and Dion Waiters?
And who cares that it was the Lakers’ first win of 2013? Or that they have been over .500 for all of one day this season? Or that they are 12 games behind the rival Clippers in the standings? Or that they remain four games in the loss column out of the final playoff spot in the West?
Yeah, that’s ancient history now. Haven’t you heard? Coach Mike D’Antoni declared that the season started Sunday, so the Lakers are 1-0 and in first place.
Here’s where the Lakers really are: Somewhere between America’s Funniest Home Videos and a six-car pileup. As colleague Jan Hubbard noted, they are a mix of comedy and tragedy. They are must-see TV.
In fact, when The Walking Dead returns in February, I am going to have a tough decision to make regarding which group of zombies to watch on Sunday nights.
You can forgive the Lakers (and their fans) for getting overly excited about a cheap home win against a bad team because there hasn’t been much to be excited about this season. Leave it to Nash, often a voice of reason, to keep things in perspective.
“I don’t want to overdo it, (and) I don’t want to undersell it, either,” he said. “We have to make up that ground. In so many areas, it was big to get a win tonight and have something to build on.”
Unfortunately, for most of the season the Lakers have been building a Jenga tower, with apparent foundations giving way and toppling the entire structure. Two coaching changes. Significant injuries to Nash, Howard, Pau Gasol, Steve Blake and Jordan Hill, now out for the season. An inability to sustain basic defensive concepts through the culprits of age and perhaps apathy.
It is said there are no new ideas in Hollywood, so on the morning after the Golden Globe Awards, we have to admit we have seen this movie before.
We saw it when Bernie Bickerstaff replaced Mike Brown and went 4-1 after a 1-4 start. We saw it when D’Antoni won his debut – then lost nine of his next 12. We saw it when the Lakers put together an overtime win at Golden State and a Christmas home win over the Knicks – then soon after embarked on their worst losing streak in six years.
Here are some frightening numbers:
- The Lakers had finished no lower than ninth in opponents’ field-goal percentage for five straight years. This season, they are 17th.
- Virtually every team has a poor record when trailing after three quarters. The Lakers are 1-12 when trailing after the first quarter.
- The Lakers currently have the NBA’s leading scorer and rebounder. Since Bryant entered the NBA in 1996, three teams – the Chicago Bulls in 1996-97 and 1997-98 and the Philadelphia 76ers in 2000-01 – had both the leading scorer and rebounder. All three never flirted with mediocrity, won 50-plus games and reached the NBA Finals. Furthermore, only one team – the 2000-01 Detroit Pistons – had a player in the top three in both categories and missed the playoffs.
- The Portland Trail Blazers currently are eighth in the West and are on pace to win 44 games. For the Lakers to win 45 games, they must go 29-16 the rest of the way against a schedule that still has 27 games against the West, 24 road games and home contests against Miami, Oklahoma City, the Clippers, Boston, Golden State, San Antonio and Houston.
Those who steadfastly believe that a win over the lowly Cavaliers will allow the Lakers to turn the corner better make sure they are not traipsing down a dark alley. Tuesday brings a home game vs. Milwaukee, which is playing well again under new coach Jim Boylan. On Thursday is a nationally televised showdown against Miami.