The Lakers ended at the third seed at 41-25. I thought they would finish at the 3rd seed (although I had them pegged at 40-26).
They draw Denver at this very wild Western Conference and it’s very key for them to control the tempo. The Playoffs are rough and tumble and the Lakers have the personnel to do just that. But will they be engaged enough to do that?
That engagement is very true with Andrew Bynum, who has shown that he can dominate an NBA game with his size and skill. Unfortunately, he didn’t seem to have that laser focus throughout the NBA season. He’s still been very hit or miss with the constant double-teams that he has been getting. Will he be okay for the postseason?
Pau Gasol wore out for whatever reason last season. Will he be able to keep it up this year? He’s pretty much filled Lamar Odom’s role as some sort of jack-of-all-trades player. He’s getting his players more involved with his passing, something that Lamar used to do. He’s decided to add the 3-pointer to his arsenal, where the Lakers have shown no problem with him shooting those.
Of course, there’s Kobe Bryant, who curiously gave up his scoring title to Kevin Durant last Thursday. It’s quite stunning how he’s had a great 16th season in the league. I have no doubt that he can still take over the game with his scoring, if need be.
With Metta World Peace out (we all know why), it is up to Devin Ebanks and Matt Barnes to produce from the 3 spot. Devin Ebanks has shown that he can get by with pure hustle and if he can manage to stay in front of his man defensively and not make too many mistakes, he’ll be fine. Barnes has been the only player off the bench with a model of consistency. He averaged 5.5 boards in nearly 23 minutes of play and he’s one of the better rebounding small forwards out there. Barnes never stops moving on both sides of the floor and the Lakers need every bit of effort from him.
Ramon Sessions has slowed down after a fast start and I don’t know if it’s the product of opposing teams scouting him, his injured shoulder, or the law of averages. Nevertheless, Sessions can get to the rim almost every time and his penetration-and-dish skills would be great for the Lakers. He’s not the best defensively but Sessions is definitely an upgrade over Steve Blake and the recently-departed Derek Fisher.
Anything that the bench produces other than Barnes is a bonus. Though Jordan Hill seemed to be a good find after his breakout performance against Oklahoma City last week. I expect Coach Mike Brown to shorten his rotations to maybe eight players in the postseason. And that’s fine; you go ahead and give it your all in the playoffs.
The Lakers have to watch out for Ty Lawson, a nightmare match-up for the Lakers. If Sessions can somewhat match Lawson’s offensive output, then the Lakers will be fine. We mentioned the concern of Bynum getting engaged; if he is, then the Lakers should be all right. However, Denver has jumping jacks in Kenneth “Manimal” Faried and JaVale McGee. If the Laker bigs don’t box them out, the Lakers are in trouble.
Al Harrington was a thorn on the Lakers’ side this year. He averaged nearly 19 points off the bench against L.A. With the Lakers’ penchant of leaving perimeter shooters, they’d better not let Harrington loose. Same with Danilo Gallinari, who has been up and down. While inconsistent this year, Gallo is capable of dropping 25-30 points at anytime.
The Lakers should take care of the Nuggets in six games. But in this wild Western Conference, anything can happen.