Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Current record: 33-31 (8th in Western Conference)
Kobe Bryant’s predictions don’t take long.
Just over two weeks ago, the Los Angeles Lakers star emphatically stated that his struggling Lakers would be in the postseason.
Bryant told Jack McCallum of Sports Illustrated: “It's not a question of if we make the playoffs. We will. And when we get there, I have no fear of anyone -- Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Denver ... whoever. I have zero nervousness about that.”
Nevermind that his Lakers hadn’t played consistently good basketball all season and were three games under .500 at the time, trailing the eighth-seeded Houston Rockets by 3.5 games.
Oh how quickly things can change.
The Lakers were a season-worst eight games under .500 (17-25) after a Jan. 23 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. Since then, the Lakers are 16-6, as Bryant continues one of his best seasons. And Dwight Howard has averaged 15.4 points and 14.1 rebounds since the All-Star Break.
The Lakers will need to continue winning on the road—a trend that has developed as of late, going 6-4 on the road since Feb. 1. The Lakers had been 5-16 on the road prior to this latest run.
Of their 18 remaining games, 10 come on the road and half are against current lottery-bound teams. The Lakers schedule is light to finish the season, including eight games against opponents with losing records.
Los Angeles has caught fire and a look at the schedule shows they will continue their improbable climb up the West's standings.
Current record: 33-31 (8th in the Western Conference)
Predicted finish: 14-4
Overall finish: 47-35, 6th in the Western Conference
First-round prediction: Victory over the No. 3 seed Los Angeles Clippers
The build-up to this opening round series will be epic. In a battle of Los Angeles, Bryant will grind out each clutch possession in a chippy series that could decide ownership of Hollywood for years to come.
Matt Barnes won't be yelling that the Clippers own the town after Bryant leads the surging Lakers past Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and crew.
The postseason style fits the Lakers, and so does Bryant's ability to stay home throughout the series.
Jimmy Spencer is an NBA Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter at @JimmySpencerNBA