Los Angeles Lakers: Predicting Each Game for Kobe Bryant and Lakers in February
The up and down ride called the Los Angeles Lakers continue their march (or is it stumble) toward destiny and a three-peat NBA title in June. The way January went for LA, many are questioning the Lakers ability to even make the Finals.
While January proved to be a better month for LA than December, it didn’t turn out as well as everyone hoped, nor as well as I predicted.
I had said the Lakers would go 13-2 but LA ended the month with two straight losses, including the loss to bitter rival Boston. So, the Lakers ended January 10-5.
January did display center Andrew Bynum’s return to near hundred percent after off-season knee surgery. The Lakers are much improved since Drew returned to the Laker starting lineup and LA’s record is indicative of his presence.
The other area that the Lakers got back some semblance of their former selves was on the defensive side of things. After the Christmas Day debacle against LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh of the newly formed Miami Heat, the Lakers Kobe Bryant practiced in late December into early January for the first time this season.
Along with coach Phil Jackson, Kobe had decided it was best for his surgically repaired knee to limit practice time. Until Christmas and the Miami Thrice. Kobe practiced two straight weeks with the team, beating up and challenging teammates to up their game.
The results speak for themselves as the Lakers improved in all areas in January. But, they did this against inferior teams, ones with poor records. We know those, the teams the Lakers are supposed to beat.
Oops. Except they lost to the Los Angeles Clippers and then the doggy downer of all year (so far), the loss this past Friday night to the Sacramento Kings at home. I repeat, at Staples.
February is a new month. But, these are the dog days of an NBA season and the marathon known as the 2010-2011 NBA season continues. LA will be the site of this year’s All-Star game in late February, so maybe the Lakers will flip the switch and remind everyone that they are still a championship caliber team.
However, the Lakers play only four games at home during the month. LA will go out on their longest road trip of the year with an East Coast swing where they'll run into quality teams like Boston, Orlando & Memphis. They do get to host the All-Star game at the end of February but then finish off the month with another tough road game in Oklahoma.
Can the swagger return and will the Lakers get back fully on track in February, sending a message to the rest of the NBA that LA is still the league’s most dangerous team?
Tue, Feb 1: Vs. Houston Rockets
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Win but count on this game to be a tight one all the way through.
That’s because the Rockets play hard every night.
This is a team of scrapers and they will claw the Lakers into a loss if LA isn’t careful.
Thu, Feb 3: Vs. San Antonio Spurs
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Loss. Another statement game for LA on the heels of the Boston Celtics battle this past Sunday, which didn't turn out to be much of a message, with the Lakers losing.
So, can the Lakers send a message to the Spurs reminding San Antonio, and the rest of the NBA for that matter, that LA is still the champ?
This should be a great game and tightly contested. With so much riding on this game, not for playoff positioning but playoff posturing and the mental aspect of the season, look for Kobe Bryant to lead his team to a victory.
And, I expect Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum to have big games.
Sat, Feb 5: New Orleans Hornets @ New Orleans
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On the road in New Orleans against the Hornets won’t be easy. This one will prove too much, as the Hornets are playing so well again.
Expect a close game but it will be too much for the Lakers.
Andrew Bynum could be a difference maker as the Hornets can't matchup with the Lakers length.
But, I don't feel it will be quite enough, as Chris Paul is having, dare I say, an MVP season.
Mon, Feb 7: Memphis Grizzlies @ Memphis
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The Grizzlies put a beating to the Lakers at Staples Center. This one is in Memphis.
It's always fun to see the Gasol brothers, Pau and Marc, go at it in the paint.
Not looking good. Maybe the Lakers’ pride will show itself and this well be a tight game.
Many in the past that have been played here have gone that way.
Could Kobe hit another game winner to take this game?
With O.J. Mayo suspended for the Grizz, expect the Lakers to squeak this out.
Thu, Feb 10: Boston Celtics @ Boston
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After LA lost to Boston to end January at home, the Celtics now look to repeat the beating in Boston.
Expect another classic and a tight, defensive minded game.
But I see Boston taking this one that goes down to the wire.
Maybe a Paul Pierce bump and pump mid-range shot to win it?
Fri, Feb 11: New York Knicks @ New York
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Win. This one should be fun.
Kobe loves NY. Remember 61 points?
The Knicks are much improved and even more so at home. This one should be high scoring.
NY ran the San Antonio Spurs out of this building a few months ago. Look for the Knicks to try the same thing against the Lakers.
The key will be for LA to slow the pace, and pound the ball inside, even getting Knick superstar Amar’e Stoudemire in foul trouble.
This one goes to LA.
Sun, Feb 13: Orlando Magic @ Orlando
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The Lakers’ East Coast road trip doesn’t get any easier as LA plays another powerhouse.
This one might not be close, as the Magic get it going and never look back.
Kobe will be up for this game, another test versus an elite team, but will any of his teammates show up to help him?
I’m not feeling it.
Mon, Feb 14: Charlotte Bobcats @ Charlotte
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Charlotte has LA’s number. That’s a fact.
They’ve got the keys to the kingdom and if they could play only one team for the NBA title, the Bobcats would choose the Lakers and win an NBA title every time.
Luckily, the league doesn’t work that way.
This season, mid-season new coach Paul Silas has Charlotte playing on an entirely different level. That doesn’t bode well for the Lakers.
Compounding the problems is this is the second of a back to back after the Lakers played the Magic the day before.
This one has loss written all over it.
Wed, Feb 16: Cleveland Cavaliers @ Cleveland
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A breath of fresh air is what I call Cleveland. This is a night off for the Lakers.
Look for another beat-down of the Cavs, not as bad as the one put on head coach Byron Scott’s team in LA, but this one shouldn’t be close.
Kobe and the starters should be icing by the fourth quarter.
Tue, Feb 22: Vs. Atlanta Hawks
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Atlanta is sort of like LA. They are up and down.
Sometimes, they look elite. Others, they can’t beat the league’s worst team.
They remind me so much of the Denver Nuggets of the past few seasons. Talented but you don’t know which team will show up.
Wed, Feb 23: Portland Trail Blazers @ Portland
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Portland isn’t the same dangerous team and thorn int he side they have been in recent seasons versus LA.
But, they are still a quality team and the Lakers have struggled in Portland.
But LA finally got a W up in the Pacific Northwest and they’ll get another one in this one.
Fri, Feb 25: Vs. LA Clippers
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Can you say revenge?
Wow, after the loss to the cross-building Clips in January, look for the Lakers to be up for this one and not underestimate the Clippers.
This one should actually be a very good game. Of course, the Clips Blake Griffin will be fun to watch.
And, I expect the Lakers to really focus their defense on the kid, with Lamar Odom really taking it to him after his ejection in the January game.
This will be a solid win for the Lakers.
Sun, Feb 27: Oklahoma City Thunder @ Oklahoma City
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The Lakers look to end the month with a win against another quality team. This one should be a tight one and if the Lakers can control pace and pound the paint, they win.
If the Thunder get it rolling and turn the game into a sprint, look out. The Lakers could lose by double digits.
But I expect a slight surprise and the Lakers take this one that goes down to the wire.
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