For the third time this week, the Lakers put on a mediocre performance and came out with a win.
In a 117-109 win, the Lakers showed why they’re the best in the West and are contenders for the best team in the NBA.
Kobe Bryant came away with 28 points, while Pau Gasol ended the game with 23 on the score board.
However, no one would have predicted the outcome the way the Lakers came out and played in the first half.
Gasol came out and missed the first free-throw of the game and though the Lakers came out to take a quick 18-16 lead, they wouldn’t see their team up again until the fourth quarter.
Derrick Rose, the young rookie in contention for the Rookie of the Year award, and John Salmons made for a combined 55 points, but that wasn’t enough for the depth from the Lakers bench.
Salmons came out and hit a 3-point buzzer beater with less than a second left to set the tempo for half time.
Had you walked out after the first, or even second quarter, you would have thought the Bulls would be heading on to their fourth win in the row.
But you would have been wrong.
The Lakers ended the half as the underdogs, 62-48, but unleashed their defense in the beginning of the third. At the end of the second, the Lakers had a field goal percentage of 46 and the Bulls were shooting 59 percent from the field.
But the Lakers rallied and fought back, cutting the lead down to six by the end of the third quarter.
Bryant and Gasol entered the fourth quarter after the six minute mark, but the second unit managed to bring back and tie the game at 89 apiece at around the 10 minute mark.
Luke Walton hit the free-throw that gave the Lakers their first lead since the first quarter, 92-91 and went on a few seconds later to go on a 14-0 run.
The Bulls were done.
After this game, I sat down and analyzed the game a bit.
The Bulls were coming off a three game win streak and had managed to creep their way up to the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, but even that couldn’t offset the intensity of the Lakers once they got going.
We’ve seen this before though.
The Lakers are dominant and have the ability to turn a mediocre performance into another tally in the win column, provide it they have the right people, coach, and plays.
Cohesiveness, you might say, has finally been attained. Bryant has finally learned to pass and managed to keep his personal life under the wraps. The team has finally managed to integrate second string players into the starting line up as needed.
Regardless of what the case may be, the Lakers have the “it” factor. They’re it.
Not to belittle any other team out there, but given the Celtics' recent slip down the totem pole, while not severe, is proof of their invincibility.
As for the Cleveland Cavaliers, despite their well seasoned players like Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Wally Szczerbiak, and Ben Wallace, their team offense revolves around LeBron James. When he collapses, it seems the Cavs have more than enough trouble building a strong game against other teams.
While I truly believe the Lakers are the team to beat and I consider myself a die-hard Lakers fan, it’s hard to come to terms when you’ve been let down.
I thought last year was their season too, but that was a bust.
The Lakers have been in the NBA finals five out of the last 10 years, and won three of those times. Those three championships were all won the first three of those 10 years.
Last season they put a run of the mill performance and managed to give the Celtics somewhat of a challenge and came away with two wins before the Celtics demised the Lakers.
It’s hard to make a case against a team who can just win like the Lakers.
So, have the Lakers finally found their perfect season?
Bryant and Gasol have made for the new and improved dynamic duo. Their No. 3 player is Lamar Odom who can easily be the No. 2 go-to-man. Trevor Ariza has such amazing agility, he can get the ball no matter where it goes. Derek Fisher is one of the best defensive players in the game. Luke Walton comes off the bench as the sixth man. And their bench can easily be the starting lineup for another team.
I think I’ve come to terms with them winning a championship.