Pivot Points: The L.A. Lakers Are Finding Their Rhythm As Kobe Adjusts

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer INovember 30, 2009

OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 28:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on against the Golden State Warriors during an NBA game at Oracle Arena on November 28, 2009 in Oakland, California.  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 Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

As the Los Angeles Lakers continue their holiday feast of the NBA's most impoverished teams, they are beginning to find that championship rhythm that has eluded them thus far this season.

In their latest conquest of the cellar-dwelling Golden State Warriors, the Lakers appeared to be firing on all cylinders as they completely blew the Warrioirs out of their own gym.

The offense was in a rhythm, and the defense was able to hold the Warriors under 100 points, which is a task unto itself considering the pace that the Warriors prefer is blistering and hectic.

One thing to take from this game is that Pau Gasol seems to be comfortable and playing in mid-season form, with no noticeable effects from his earlier hamstring injury.

Gasol put on a dominant and efficient display with 22 points and 12 rebounds on 9-11 shooting from the field. His defense in the middle was exceptional, and the turnovers he helped create often jump-started the Laker transition game.

Kobe Bryant continued to adjust to his role as the team's facilitator and did an admirable job filling up the stat sheet with 20 points, six rebounds, six assists, and five steals.

It should be noted that Golden State is one of the best teams to play when stat-building since they seem to offer no semblance of resistance on the defensive end. The embattled Laker bench even got in the act, scoring a season high 44 points.

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What this current four game stretch has revealed about the Lakers should offer some measure of comfort for the future. For one, the Lakers are now winning the games that they are supposed to win.

The Lakeshow in the past often played down to the level of their opponent and found themselves scrambling to preserve a narrow victory, or trying to explain how they lost to the Charlotte Bobcats at home.

If not for the trials of the bench, the past four games would have been decided blow-outs, and they still managed to win all four games by double-digits.

The Ron Artest experiment is working so far, and has helped unleash some of the best defensive basketball in Kobe Bryant's career. He is playing with a tenacity not seen since his third year in the NBA.

Artest has been so good at defending his man, that it has allowed Kobe to concentrate on his own man and cheat in the passing lane without fear of having to help out in rotations.

This has accounted for numerous steals, and the blossoming of what could be a dominant defense in Los Angeles.

Kobe has struggled some, but it is more of an identity struggle rather than anything that has to do with the game. He is still figuring out when to apply offensive pressure and when to let the flow of the game come to him.

He is a scorer by nature, so it probably takes some will for him to hold back and let his teammates make the plays. The fact that he can do this effectively is a testament to his evolution as a complete player.

Kobe realizes that he can be dominant on the scoreboard whenever he wants to, and is learning that the other aspects that he brings to the Lakers can be much more valuable in the long run.

The Lakers are playing their fifth game against an inferior team as I am writing this, and it happens to be the worst team in the NBA, the New Jersey Nets, and I expect the end result to match the previous four.

The Lakers are capitalizing on this soft spot of their schedule, and are finding the rhythm that make them the most feared team in the NBA. The audition period will soon be over, the real journey awaits.