Hugs, smiles, and high fives are aplenty these days around the Lakers bench. There is a swagger about this team that wasn't there at the beginning of the NBA season. Kobe, Odom, Gasol, Bynum and even Artest have become the most important pieces of this franchise, with Bryant being the focal point of the offense, as he has been for the past many seasons.
Confidence has overtaken this Lakers team, and what better time than now? "That's why we've been able to win back-to-back championships, because we have a great team," Bryant said. "Pieces complement each other extremely well. That's the trick, that's the key. Management has done a great job."
Kobe, I must agree with you on that one. High five my friend.
Seems like whatever happened before the All-Star break has motivated this team to turn it up a notch and turn a few heads in the process. Heading into Minneapolis to take on the Timberwolves on Tuesday night, the Lakers knew that a 4-0 winning streak wasn't good enough. After beating up on the Timberwolves 90-79, the Lakers went up to 5-0. Yes, 5-0. Not too shabby folks.
Not sure how much longer the Lakers will keep their winning streak going though. In the meantime, keep your sneaker laces tied and your fingers crossed. But are you all surprised?
In a way, I'm not. To be quite honest with you, I was sort of expecting it to happen sooner or later, but not this soon. At one point in the season it seemed as if this team lacked motivation. For a minute there it seemed as if the Lakers were quickly riding on a sinking ship off the Pacific coast. Looks like everyone is pitching in for ways to motivate one another, for a win. Any team will tell you that chemistry is important just as talent is, especially for a team that has won back-to-back championships.
As for the Timberwolves, well, they played like the Timberwolves once again. Another team, who like the Cavaliers, find themselves at the bottom of everyone's sneakers. Obviously, there had to be a winner and a loser, and Kevin Love and his team played more like a puppy gang than their snarling wild wolf logo depicts, losing at home.
Love had 13 points along with 11 rebounds. These stats gave him his 47th double-double. A stat like that in college is great, but in the NBA, that is incredible. Love seems to be the heart and soul of this lowly Timberwolves team, but alone he is not enough, especially when taking on a powerhouse team like the Lakers.
The Lakers went in with two seven-footers and a 6'10" Lamar Odom. That's a lot of height. Stack those three trees up together and you have something that would resemble a Transformer.
Does size matter? It sure did in this game, especially when Bynum played some inspiring basketball, using his bulk and strength to push around the Timberwolves frontcourt like stick figures to the Hulk. "I think we just played down to the competition," said Bynum, whose Lakers have lost to teams like Cleveland and Sacramento.
Minnesota trailed by only four points after three quarters, and five reserves opened the fourth quarter. The result was a disorganized offense that missed nine of its next 10 shots and turned the ball over twice, allowing L.A. to open a double-digit lead that Minnesota never whittled below eight points again. Kobe, who matched his jersey number in points, struggled a bit and was held in check by rookie Wes Johnson, who scored 20 points in the process. Although Artest and Gasol were horrible going 5-of-20 combined, Gasol did grab 17 rebounds. Odom finished the game with 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Lakers.
The Lakers have been playing their best basketball lately and seem to have a much better team chemistry than many would think. Seems like the motor is working and starting to make some noise after some type of tune-up. Whether it's come at the expense of Jackson's verbal speeches at practice or if their chemistry is blossoming naturally, one thing is for sure—the Lakers are for real.