July 29, 2021

Moving on up

With the NBA conference finals around the corner, it’s crunch time. All teams in the East and the West are feeling the pressure, competing for one of the 16 spots for playoffs.
The Los Angeles Lakers came into the season with a championship mentality. Just acquiring all stars and possible future Hall of Fame players like Steve Nash, two time MVP, eight all-star appearances; and Dwight Howard, three time NBA defensive player of the year; the Lakers had a chance of another title.

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This archived article was written by: Travon Langston

With the NBA conference finals around the corner, it’s crunch time. All teams in the East and the West are feeling the pressure, competing for one of the 16 spots for playoffs.
The Los Angeles Lakers came into the season with a championship mentality. Just acquiring all stars and possible future Hall of Fame players like Steve Nash, two time MVP, eight all-star appearances; and Dwight Howard, three time NBA defensive player of the year; the Lakers had a chance of another title.
With a starting lineup of Metta Worldpeace, Pau Gasol, Nash, Howard and Kobe Bryant, it was apparent that they would have no trouble making it to the Western Conference finals. Nevertheless, when it comes to the NBA, anything can happen.
The Lakers started the year with a rough beginning. It seemed hopeless for a team with a record of below .500. The Lakers went into the All-Star break 25-29, second to last place in the Western Conference. Sixteen championships later, it’s safe to say this should be impossible for that to happen to them.
The Lakers did not have team chemistry. Due to injuries, the Lakers couldn’t play as a whole. Chemistry is a key factor when it comes to superstars, especially when everyone wants to get the ball and put the team on their back.
After All-Star Weekend, the Lakers stepped up their game. They had half of a season to make it to the eighth spot. Bryant remarked, “we are going to make it to the playoffs, there is no doubt in my mind that we are not.” Bryant was making this speech well known. This is what had everyone talking, are they really going to make it or are they just going to be like their competitors, the Miami Heat the first year after acquiring superstar Lebron James.
The Lakers are in eighth place.The San Antonio Spurs are in first, trailing two games behind the Oklahoma City Thunder. If the Lakers maintain their position, they will play the Spurs. The Lakers have a better chance against the Spurs than Oklahoma, because of age similarities. The Spurs are an older team, opposite from the Thunder when their starting lineup consists of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. These two are young, dominant players.
The Spurs are slower than the Lakers. San Antonio can also play better in a half court set than LA. If the Lakers play the Thunder, it will be a difficult challenge.
Durant and Westbrook  will destroy Nash and Worldpeace. Considering that Nash is older, he does not match up with Westbrook. Westbrook is in his 20s and has energy to play defense on Nash and also score on him. Durant holds the leading scorer record in the league with 28.3 points per game.
Worldpeace would not be able to drop Durant’s average. Westbrook and Durant together every night averages 51.6 points per night. Scoring half of 100 is a lot to handle for Nash and Worldpeace.
The Lakers do not have a strong enough bench to play as fast or as good as the Thunder. Knowing that Gasol is out for the season isn’t good for the Lakers, because that means they aren’t as big as they were with Gasol and Howard.
Earl Clark has to bring his “A” game if they play the Thunder. Clark, having young knees, can guard Tim Duncan, because he is older and can’t move as well as he once could. He can still shoot around the perimeter, but with young legs and as hungry as Clark is, it shouldn’t be a problem for him to handle Duncan.
Health is the key for the Lakers in playoff run. If the Lakers can keep a healthy, strong seven-player roster, they should not have any problems beating the Spurs. The way Howard is playing, he is unstoppable. In recent games they played against Howard’s ex-team, Orlando Magic, Howard managed to drop 36 points, 16 rebounds, and two blocks. If he can maintain this momentum and play like that every night, this should be a stroll in the park.
With Bryant and Nash by his side, combine with at least 40 points, this will be great for the Lakers and their success in the playoffs. Worldpeace and Clark will feed off the momentum of the stars, motivating them to do better and play on their level. The Lakers hold their own destiny this season, knowing that the year was not so great from the beginning and then turning it around later in the season is absolutely phenomenal.  Why stop now when they can go all the way and finally earn that championship banner to join with the other 16 banners?

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