After a loss at home to the weakened and injured Philadelphia team, the Lakers failed to do what the city of Los Angeles needed...get a big win against a Golden State team that fails to show any indication of wanting to perform on the defensive side of the ball.
Last night, the Lakers showed a side that has been creeping into their play far too often, a lack of ability to finish strong.
This is suprising, considering the team with the second-best record in the league was so good, a mere 10 games ago, at closing out and winning big. With the longest road trip of the season coming at the end, it will be vital for Los Angeles to come into the trip with a strong sense of confidence in being able to win games.
Last night almost ended the same way the game two days before had: Build up a huge lead and then watch it fade away as the team crumbles on the floor.
This is not to say that I personally think the Lakers will be out in the first round of the playoffs. Nor do I believe that they will come out of the road trip 0-7, lets face it, it's not the hardest road schedule especially in comparison to the Grammy road trip.
But, momentum is everything in sports, and a lackluster win going into a long time away from home is not going to spur momentum. I am, however, looking forward to the game against Chicago. The Lakers should use that game as a soap-box game, if you will, and state to the league that they are still the LA Lakers, the team with 14 titles and the most wins in NBA history.
With Cleveland playing most of their games at home at the end of the season, and we all know how they play at home, it will be vital that the Lakers come out of this road trip 6-1, or at least 5-2. Then, it will be a sprint to the end of the season.
This road trip will be a sign of things to come, because if the Lakers are able to come out with a 6-1 record, that will be all the momentum they will need to close out the season strong.
They can feel safe in the fact that they have clinched the division and will be in the playoffs. They can feel safe knowing that they have the tie breaker with Cleveland, who the Lakers need to make up a game on. Most importantly, they can feel safe in knowing that they have been here and are deep as ever on the bench.
The trick will be if the team can feel safe coming out of 14 more games, which include the longest road trip of the season. This road trip will determine where the momentum is for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Until then, I say keep holding your NCAA brackets tight in your hand, because once a champion is crowned in Detroit there is nothing left but what may be one of the most exciting post seasons in NBA history.