For the first time this year, the Los Angeles Lakers are in discussion for an NBA title. Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol have proved they are the best post duo in the league and it doesn't look like any other team will be able to contain the two 7-footers.
As the Lakers sneaked past the discouraged Denver Nuggets 104-100, they hold a 2-0 series lead as they head to the "Mile High City" with an intention to sweep.
All year long there were only four teams being mentioned in contention for an NBA title: the Bulls, Heat, Spurs and Thunder. Though these teams were the consensus picks for winning the championship this year, it looks as though the Lakers could end up being the dark horse in the whole scheme of things.
The biggest question surrounding the Lakers when labeling them as "NBA contenders" has quite simply been the lack of their bench production. Every championship team has had a reliable bench, and without one it would be nearly impossible to contend for a championship.
However, in the last stretch of the regular season, heading into the playoffs, the Lakers bench has risen to the challenge with the help of two unexpected youngsters in Devin Ebanks and Jordin Hill and now look to have enough bench production to be in discussion for an NBA title this year.
With Bulls' MVP Derrick Rose out, it looks as though the Heat will cruise through the Eastern Conference bracket, which means the NBA could potentially see a Lakers-Heat matchup all the fans have been waiting for.
I can just see the headline now: "Unexpected Lakers Face off Against the Ringless Heat as They Chant, 'Not One, Not Two, Not Three...Not Seven,' While Kobe Flashes His Ring-Filled Hand."
Hopefully, this headline stretches across every major tabloid in the coming months.
All jokes aside, though, the Lakers really do have a fighting chance to reach this year's NBA Finals and with the potential matchup of not only the Lakers and the Heat, but Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. Destiny may just be lining up the stars for the moment we have all been waiting for.
There are, however, many obstacles the Lakers must overcome before the city of Los Angeles can brace itself for LeBron and the Heat. The unusually rejuvenated Spurs are looking better than ever as Gregg Popovich wins Coach of the Year, the Oklahoma City Thunder hold a commanding 2-0 series lead on the defending NBA champion Mavericks, and don't forget about the talented Clippers and Grizzlies, who could both give a convincing scare to any team in West.
To put it lightly, the Lakers are in for a doozy.
There are no guarantees in the world of sports, especially in the playoffs. The Lakers were, as you know, blown away by the eventual championship winner Mavericks in an embarrassing 0-4 sweep, and knowing the toughness of the Western Conference playoff bracket, any team could be knocked out in a minute's notice.
What the Lakers will need to rely on is not an aging Kobe, or a newly acquired point guard in Ramon Sessions, but they will need to rely on the only advantage they've held over teams in the past: Bynum and Gasol. Size has always been the biggest asset to an NBA team and it will be essential if the Lakers are serious about winning a title.
As the Lakers plan to cruise past the somewhat disappointing Denver Nugget team that looked like it could compete with anybody before the playoffs began, the Lakers need to simply focus on being an inside-outside composed team, and if they can manage to do this, a championship is not out of the question.
With a solid 2-0 series lead heading to Denver, the Lakers can hold their heads high as they are playing the best basketball they've played all year. Assuming that the Lakers advance to the next round and Metta World Peace returns in reasonable form for the second round of the playoffs, don't be quick to count out the Lakers.
This 66-game season has been a weird one, to say the least, and the Lakers have expressed this reality to its fullest. Continue to watch out for the inspired Lakers and carefully await a Lakers-Heat matchup that we all desperately want.
Who said Christmas can't come six months early?