L.A. Lakers' 5-Game Win Streak Nothing to Get Too Excited About

Andrew Gould@AndrewGould4Featured ColumnistDecember 26, 2012

The Lakers are a much better team with Steve Nash, but they still must overcome a stacked Western Conference.
The Lakers are a much better team with Steve Nash, but they still must overcome a stacked Western Conference.Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

After blowing the Los Angeles Lakers' poor start out of proportion, let's not repeat the same mistakes and assume everything has returned to normal.

The Lakers recently corrected a concerning 9-14 start by fighting back to .500 with five straight victories. Although they are finally healthy and ready to push up the Western Conference standings, they are still far from a shoo-in to win the West, or even land a top-four seed.

Out of their last five victories, only the New York Knicks are a legitimate title contender. The Golden State Warriors are much improved under head coach Mark Jackson, but they'll still begin the first round on the road, if they even make the playoffs.

They're not forming into a super team running opponents out of the gym during this stretch. Through the past five wins, the Lakers have averaged a 5.8-point margin of victory, only topping the 13-15 Philadelphia 76ers by double-digits.

Steve Nash's return certainly brightens the landscape in Los Angeles, but they still must work out some kinks.

Offensively, the Lakers should dominate once the big names become familiarized with each other. Nash has already established the pick-and-roll with Dwight Howard while making Pau Gasol much more comfortable operating outside the post.

Then there's still Kobe Bryant, who is in the midst of the most productive offensive season of his illustrious career. The 34-year-old is averaging 29.9 points per game on a career-high 47.5 shooting percentage.

And by accumulating at least 30 points during each game of the winning streak, Bryant is proving that his scoring does not prevent them from coming out on top.

But how will they fare on defense? Even in their glory days, Nash and head coach Mike D'Antoni never protected the basket well. Nash alleviates any possible offensive woes, but he will struggle to contain Russell Westbrook, Tony Parker and Chris Paul.

Or Stephen Curry, Ricky Rubio, Mike Conley, Ty Lawson, Damian Lilliard and Jeremy Lin. Man, the West is loaded with outstanding point guards.

Even if they figure everything out, they have to handle four premier squads in the Western Conference.

Tim Duncan is playing like he's 25 again, and the San Antonio Spurs are scoring more than any team in the NBA. The Thunder, led by a trio of stars in their early 20's, look just fine without James Harden.

While a fearsome duo of Gasol and Howard will threaten many squads that have shifted to smaller rotations, the Grizzlies can counter with Zach Randolph and Pau's brother, Marc, who is the family's best big man right now.

In fact, the Lakers are the second-best team playing in the Staples Center by a considerable margin. The Los Angeles Clippers won their 14th consecutive game last night to improve their record to 22-6. Not including the imminent arrival of veterans Grant Hill and Chauncey Billups, the Clippers are much deeper than their town rivals.

While the Lakers cross their fingers and hope someone outside of their four superstars can contribute, the Clippers boast Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes, Eric Bledsoe and Ronny Turiaf on a striving second unit.

They also play superior defense, allowing 91.9 points per game while the Lakers give up 99.7.

This string of success should not cause jubilation as much of a sigh of relief. Even through this resurgence, the Lakers don't look as good as the rest of the West's powerhouses

They won't suffer a catastrophic collapse and miss the postseason altogether, but a team that entered the season as an overwhelming favorite to make the NBA Finals could fail to reach the second round.


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