Why LA Lakers Must Make Statement Against Good Teams

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IMarch 15, 2013

ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 13:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers walks off the court after missing a game-tying three-point basket in the final seconds against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on March 13, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia.  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 Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers probably wouldn't have been favored to defeat the Indiana Pacers before Kobe Bryant's ankle injury, and while uncertainty over Bryant's ankle does cast a shadow over the resurgent Lakers' playoff hopes, it doesn't change the fact that few people expected the Lakers to beat Indiana at home.

Even with a healthy Kobe Bryant.

Kobe's guarantee that the Lakers would qualify for the postseason certainly seems like it may be a little closer to reality, but his claim that the Lakers would make noise once they get there may be an idle threat simply because the Lakers have yet to prove they can beat the west's top contenders in the regular season.

The Lakers are currently one half game ahead of the Utah Jazz for the eighth playoff spot in the west, and the Lakers only own five combined victories against the seven teams ahead of them this season. Two of those wins were against Golden State.

Los Angeles does own wins over Oklahoma City, Denver and Houston as well, but they have gone winless against San Antonio, Memphis and their arena mates the Clippers.

Since the All-Star break, the Lakers have been mostly beating the teams they were supposed to beat and losing to the teams their record suggests they should lose to.

The Lakers are 12-3 since the All-Star break, but two of those losses have come at the hands of Oklahoma City and Denver and only three of their 12 wins were against teams that would qualify for the postseason today.

Interestingly enough, none of those wins came against western conference playoff teams.

The three victories came against Boston in the Lakers' first game after the death of legendary owner Dr. Buss, a one-point victory over Atlanta, and against a Chicago Bulls team missing Derrick Rose.

None of those teams are elite by most standards, and the truth behind the Lakers' recent strong play diminishes Kobe's promise when weighed against the teams the Lakers 12-3 streak was built on.

Of course, regular season play doesn't dictate what happens in the playoffs, but it does give the teams who have been beating the Lakers all through the regular season the confidence to believe they can continue to beat them when it really matters.

Kobe may have faith that his Lakers can be competitive against the best teams in the west over the course of a seven game series, but can his confident attitude inspire players like Jodie Meeks and Earl Clark who have never really experienced the pressures of the postseason in a critical role?

Even though Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash backed up Kobe's guarantee, what does their vote of confidence mean if it can't be backed up on the court?

Close losses to the likes of Miami and Oklahoma City may be learning experiences for the Lakers, but at the end of the day they are still losses.

At some point the Lakers will have to prove they can not only stand up to teams like San Antonio, Memphis and Oklahoma, but that they can beat them as well. And until that happens, I wouldn't place too much stock in Kobe's guarantee or the Lakers' record over the past 15 games. 

Inspired performances and moral victories provide little comfort for an experienced and veteran team that was expected to contend for the 2013 NBA title, and regardless of how much noise Kobe thinks the Lakers will make, no one will hear it unless it ends with a Finals' trip.

Reaching the postseason and possibly winning a series is setting the bar a little low in the opinion of most Lakers fans, but in truth who do you really see the Lakers beating in a seven game series right now?