Lakers Can Still Bounce Back, Don't Write 'Em off Just Yet

Brittany Johnson@brittanyjo008Contributor IIIJanuary 29, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 27:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers drives on Kevin Durant #35 and Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder during a 106-95 Laker win at Staples Center on January 27, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

The Lakers have been less than stellar this season, and it has become evident to all basketball fans across the country.

What used to be the team that ran L.A. has now been run over, leaving many fans and haters alike stunned at the Lakers season thus far.

With a current record of 19-25, the Lakers are certainly not where people predicted them to be. With big names added to the roster such as Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, the Lakers were in the perfect position to be a fierce title contender. It seemed as if everything was falling into place. However, things quickly took a turn for the worse.

Beginning as far back as the preseason, the Lakers showed early signs of struggle. Former head coach Mike Brown faced intense scrutiny as the team continued to underwhelm. Even after Brown’s departure, problems continued to arise. Even head coach Mike D’Antoni could not spark a fire in what seemed to be a defeated team.

Many fans have already written off the Lakers for this year and are already looking forward to next season. Many believe that there is no fixing this team—not this season, anyway.

However, I believe that you can’t count the Lakers out just yet. Despite the challenges and problems that the Lakers do have, and there’s no denying that there are some things that need to be fixed, the Lakers definitely have the time to do it.

There are three critical reasons to believe that the Lakers can still turn their season around.

First and foremost, the Lakers huge and needed victory against the Oklahoma City Thunder Sunday was a statement game. OKC is one of the top teams in the NBA, and the way the Lakers played in beating the Thunder shows resiliency.

What was perhaps the most telling in the victory over OKC was the way the Lakers played as a team. Offensively, it was perhaps the best the Lakers looked all season. Not because of Kobe Bryant’s scoring prowess, but because of a collective effort to drive to the basket and find the open man. 

And a greater utilization of Dwight Howard was crucial in this game.

Incorporating Nash’s lethal jump shots and using Pau Gasol more down low introduced a greater balance to the offense. A more-balanced attack allowed the Lakers to be more successful against Durant and his counterparts. L.A. also slowed the game down and controlled the pace. They got better shots as a result, shooting nearly 61 percent from the floor.

Defensively, the Lakers showed improvement against OKC, containing Russell Westbrook and holding Kevin Durant (35 points) without a field goal over the final 6:39 of the game. Defense has been a constant struggle for the Lakers season, but they showed promise in this game, with Howard rebounding and defending more effectively.

Sharing the basketball keyed L.A.'s win. Kobe scored only 21 points, but dealt out 14 assists. When he scores more than 28 points, the Lakers are 8-19; less than 28 points and they are 11-6.

Bryant’s selflessness was crucial in lifting his team to the win, as passes to Nash and Gasol led to clutch baskets in the game's final minutes.

As long as the Lakers can continue to play as a team and Bryant continues to facilitate for others, and with Howard improving his game...if all of these things continue to play out, the Lakers have a chance to make this season a positive one.

Finally, you simply cannot dismiss L.A. if only because there is still plenty of basketball left to be played. With over thirty games left in the regular season, the Lakers have the chance to make the changes necessary to silence the disbelievers. With Gasol healthy and Howard on the mend, L.A. has the tools to make a playoff push.

L.A. will have to face not only Oklahoma City again but also the Los Angeles Clippers, the Miami Heat, San Antonio and the surprise of the Western Conference this season, the Golden State Warriors. Two of these teams the Lakers have already beaten at least once this season.

With a compelling win against OKC, L.A. is showing much more promise than it did in the first half of the season. The team and its fans hope this recent win sparks a not just a fire but that it sets this team ablaze. It gives this team a reason to keep fighting and something for fans to look forward to.