Can Kobe Bryant and the rest of the Los Angeles Lakers turn things around in February?
As January creeps to a close, February hopefully brings better luck for Kobe Bryant and the rest of the Lakeshow. Currently sitting at 20-25, the Lakers need a positive stretch of wins if they are to have a chance at making the playoffs.
After a recent four-game losing streak, Kobe and the rest of the Lakers bounced back with a solid three-game winning streak, featuring much more facilitation from Bean than we're used to seeing. In the Lakers' wins over Utah and Oklahoma City, Kobe dished out 14 dimes in each game—respective highs in both contests for assists.
This is great to see from Kobe, but will it be enough to make for a successful February? Well, let's check out the individual contests they have ahead, and see if they can indeed make up for their lost ground out in the West.
Three dominant wins in a row at home is great, but the Lakers will still have to take their show on the road. Their February road test begins starting this upcoming Friday, and it's a classic case of good news and bad news.
The good news, historically, the Lakers have owned Minnesota, the bad news, the Lakers will be playing on a back-to-back. Despite having a horrible 5-15 record on the road, the Lakers should find themselves the favored squad in the upcoming matchup this week.
The Lakers have flatout dominated against the Timberwolves for years, the last time the Lakers lost against Minnesota was way back in the 2006-07 season in an overtime loss by 10 points. Bearing this stat in mind, it's obvious that they swept the season series last year, both at home and on the road.
Without Kevin Love, the Wolves are just not as much a threat against this revitalized Lakers squad, and I look for Kobe to come out and get everyone in involved. No Love also means that Pau won't have to drift out on the perimeter as much, but Derrick Williams is still an athletic big who can give people fits if its the right kind of night.
Now matchup wise, Minnesota still has the likes of Nikola Pekovic who could physically contend one-on-one with Dwight Howard, and the pesky reach of Andrei Kirilenko could bother Kobe a bit, Minnesota really hasn't had a perimeter defender like Andrei to pit against Kobe in recent matchups. I think this one will be a barn-burner since Minnesota is still a physical team that can get hot from behind the arc.
Despite the opposing variables, I will rule in favor of history and give the Lakers 111-106 victory to finally turn their road woes around.
The Lakers obliterated the Pistons the first time they saw them this season. Detroit came out in the Staples Center looking flat, and it was basically a defensive clinic by LA. Now, despite the fact we witnessed such a beatdown earlier this season, it won't mean this upcoming matchup will be a cakewalk.
The Pistons actually have a 12-12 record at home, and you can bet they'll try to give it their all against the Lakers. I like the revenge angle, and we might actually see the Lakers come out a little languid, expecting Detroit to just roll over and give up like they did earlier this season. Although I might be alone in this prediction, I see Detroit giving Los Angeles a scare and keeping it much closer than expected.
I think Rodney Stuckey goes off, and some hot shooting will keep the bout closer than the oddsmakers will probably chalk it up.
Lakers escape with a 90-84 win in the Motor City despite a valiant effort from their beleaguered Pistons.
After facing two sub-.500 teams, the Lakers will finally face a real threat. Brooklyn has looked much more fluid offensively under head coach P.J. Carlesimo, and at home, the Nets will be a whole different animal than the Avery Johnson-coached Nets they faced earlier this season.
This matchup will really hinge on who dominates the boards, and whichever team can cool off the opposing squad's gunners. Joe Johnson will come to play for sure, but the Lakers need to watch out for Deron Williams at home with a chance to exploit the Steve Nash matchup.
We might actually see Kobe on Deron and Metta World Peace on Joe Johnson, but either way, Carlesimo's motion offense will likely cause switches and force Nash to play some defense. I really like the Nets in this matchup, and I think they pull off the victory. Too much Deron, too much energy at home—I think BK pulls this one off.
The Nets redeem themselves for their early season lapse at Staples with a 97-90 win in the borough that bore AZ and Papoose.
Two days after their battle in Brooklyn, the Lakers will head out to the TD Garden and face the depleted Boston Celtics. After hearing the horrific news that star point guard Rajon Rondo is out for the season with an ACL tear, the inevitable rebuilding process might have hit Boston much sooner than expected.
Boston will have to face the Lakers at home, but what makes the matchup interesting is the mystique and history that goes back decades with the respective franchises. Perhaps the greatest rivalry in the history of pro basketball, we still are fortunate enough to witness two of the savviest scorers the game has to offer—Kobe Bryant and Paul Pierce.
Pierce is going to come out aggressive, Kevin Garnett will be chirping and the rest of the C's will be fired up for this matchup. This is going to be a grinder of a game. Howard is physical enough to impose his will, but I think KG will be in his head all game. KG is a very, very smart defender, and I think he will force Dwight into some tough shots and limit him either to scoring off lobs or putbacks.
Avery Bradley is going to give Steve Nash fits, and I think a bulky Metta World Peace won't be able to stop an agile Pierce who is much quicker than he looks. Despite no Rondo, I still like Boston edging their way in this matchup, and I side with the better defensive squad at home.
Boston prevails 95-90 at home with two big games from Pierce and Kobe, respectively.
In their earlier matchup this season, the Charlotte Bobcats came into Staples Center as double digit dogs, and they almost won straight up. The Lakers won after halting Charlotte in the closing seconds after Gerald Henderson missed a bunny at the rim, and the game ended with a final score of 101-100 in favor of the Lakeshow.
The Lakers kept shooting themselves in the foot that game, and despite having a chance to close it out, they let Charlotte creep back in due to some costly turnovers and silly mistakes. At home, Charlotte is just as abysmal as they are on the road. The fact that they're the younger, athletic squad may disrupt LA a bit. Charlotte also loves to press and will try and exploit the Lakers penchant for being turnover prone.
Because this game comes off of a road back-to-back, I really love the upset in this spot, but I think LA will do what they can due to the importance of the upcoming schedule. I think the previous day's battle with Boston will be taxing, and LA kind of takes it easy on the young guns of Charlotte. Charlotte will be the team that wants the win more, and I like them to come out and give it their all, but like it usually ends up for Charlotte—it won't be enough.
Final score: 108-99 in favor of the Los Angeles Lakers, despite the back-to-back.
These are the games we love to see—two of the game's best perimeter players head-to-head on national television. Miami will be at home against the Lakers this go-around, and if their recent matchup was any indication, Miami will obviously be favored in this bout.
Miami is a monster at home. Out of 21 home games, they've only dropped three, and I can certainly guarantee with the chance to make another convincing statement that they won't drop this one. Miami's perimeter tandem of Dwyane Wade and LeBron James will get buckets, and Chris Bosh will probably get to work as well.
Kobe had a horrendous shooting game in their first matchup, and the odds are that we won't see that happen again. I like this game to be a little closer, but I still side with Miami's homecourt and their three-point shooting.
Miami will win in a thrilling 103-100 battle down to the wire.
The Lakers will close out their road trip and return home to Staples Center to face off against the Phoenix Suns. They felled the Suns by 12 points in their earlier matchup back in November, and I give the Lakers the advantage yet again considering they're at home.
Aside from the obvious storyline—Steve Nash facing his old team, I think this won't be a game of much interest. I expect Phoenix to come out, knock down some shots and keep it competitive, but I think the Lakers will handle this one despite the pesky likes of Goran Dragic and Luis Scola.
Dragic will outplay his old mentor in Nash, but Kobe will drop 25-plus and dish out plenty of assists.
Lakers win, 113-103.
Although both teams will be home that night, technically, the Lakers will enjoy the home colors. We can throw home-court advantage out the window and just look at the game objectively. The Clippers are just the flatout better team. More athletes, better defenders and better chemistry.
Even if Chris Paul isn't at 100 percent, I would pick the Clippers with or without him. Kobe couldn't stop Paul last time, and assuming he's playing come this game, he won't stop him again. Griffin has been looking like a legit primary option as of late, and his offensive game has improved by leaps and bounds. DeAndre Jordan's athleticism equalizes Dwight Howard's, and at the end of the day, it's going to be whoever imposes the will of their primary scorer over the others.
Bench play will also be a factor, and I'm siding with the likes of Jamal Crawford, Lamar Odom and Matt Barnes.
I like the Clippers taking a 2-0 head-to-head lead in the battle for LA with a final score of 97-92.
Revenge is a dish best served cold, and it will indeed be cold for the Boston Celtics when they visit LA in the Staples Center.
Assuming we stick the script here, the Lakers will be looking to rebound from their road loss almost two weeks earlier. Regardless of the outcome in matchup No.1, I really love Los Angeles to come out on top in this battle.
Boston will have a rough shooting night on the road, and at this point, the loss of Rondo may begin to take its toll. I think the supplementary players like Jodie Meeks and Antawn Jamison have a great shooting night off the bench, and the whole Lakers' squad will get in on the action.
I think despite the marquee matchup, we see a big road letdown from Boston. I like the Lakers coasting to an easy win, thanks to some big-time shooting at home.
Lakers prevail over their arch nemesis and get revenge to the tune of 99-87.
The Blazers are a feisty youthful team, but they just aren't the same on the road. Last time they came to LA, the Lakers were 8-point road chalk despite their surprising defeat in the Rose Garden earlier this season.
LaMarcus Aldridge will do his best to keep them in the game, Nicolas Batum will hit some big shots and Damian Lillard will own the point guard battle, but Bean and the rest of the Lakers will reign supreme in this bout. I think this game will much closer than the previous matchups, and it will come down to the final possessions and hinge on knocking down free throws to seal the deal.
The Blazers will come close to notching an upset thanks to the non-stop hustle and fight, but I think LA wins a nail-biter by one possession. 113-111 in favor of the Lakers.
Mavericks-Lakers is always a great matchup, and this one will be no different.
Dirk Nowitzki is gonna put on quite a performance knowing that Kobe and the boys will be coming into town, and I think his shooting stroke will be contagious. O.J. Mayo will look to light it up as well, and this could easily boil down to whoever outshoots the other.
Knowing Bean, he won't come out flat against the Mavs. We will see a 30-plus point type of game from Kobe—he will look to get Pau or Earl Clark going at Nowitzki as well, and if he gets in foul trouble, the Mavs lose their primary scoring threat.
If LA reduces their turnovers and keeps the athletically superior likes of Darren Collison and Shawn Marion out of transition, it will be a half court game, and that will be the type of pace that favors the Lakers.
Despite upsetting the Lakers in their season opener, the Mavs will come up short against the Lakers in a three-point shootout.
Lakers outgun the Mavs 114-107.
The Lakers will be in for a high-scoring, high-altitude track meet when they take on the Nuggets on the road in their second-to-last game of February.
As it stands, the season series between the two squads is 2-1 in favor of Denver, so will they continue their trend and make it three in a row since losing the first matchup?
Similar to their war in the playoffs last season, home-court advantage will remain the deciding factor. Los Angeles will come out strong in the first half thanks to Kobe and a slow start from Denver's shooters, but the Nuggets will creep back and coast their way to a finish once the Lakers lose their legs to fatigue.
A stagnant second half from LA, combined with the fast-paced transition Nuggets offense will be too much. Ty Lawson will get a lot of mid-range looks, and he'll knock most of them down to lead the Nuggets to a solid victory.
Denver will defeat Los Angeles 108-100 and win the season series 3-1.
Just as they did early on in their road trip, the Lakers will finish February just as they started—with a win against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
On the road against a pumped up Lakers squad on national television, I really like the Lakers to bring their A-game once again. Expect the game to be physical on both sides, but a scoring drought from Minnesota won't be enough to survive the scoring onslaught from Kobe and company.
Kobe will cap off February by giving us a big-time scoring performance, but I also think the Timberwolves will at least make things interesting. Because this matchup is historically in the Lakers' favor, I have to give them the edge, but I certainly think that Minnesota will play some inspired basketball.
Despite some hot perimeter shooting to nearly give Minnesota their first win against LA in seven years, Kobe closes out the game and the month of February with some late-game heroics.
Kobe hits the tie-breaking shot and sinks the two free throws to close out their February campaign on a dramatic note.
Lakers scrape past Minnesota 104-100.