NBA Combat: 20 Trap Games That Could Deny The Lakers Home-Court Advantage
All around the NBA teams are gearing up for training camps. However, of the 30 teams set to entertain fans, it can can possibly become the greatest season of this decade. Only one will enter the season with the distinguished title of “Champion.”
The Los Angeles Lakers are the 2010 NBA Champs, and return with nearly their entire roster intact.
With all the hoopla that arose from this 2010 offseason. Many want to try and turn the focuses of NBA fans on newer attractions, mainly the unpredictable one looming in Miami. Apparently most of the NBA community has taken offense with the team that the Miami organization has constructed.
With winning their second straight championship, and the Heat becoming the most hated team in the NBA, the Lakers are somehow America’s team of choice now. It’s amazing how quickly things can change, really shows the true character of the fans that support the sport.
The Media is putting the “Bull’s-eye” on the Heat’s back, once again creating their own criteria for a championship contender.
At the beginning of the 2008-2009 season the Celtics were the reigning champs, and rightfully carried the honor and burden that came with being a champion. The same rule was applied with the Lakers entering this past 2009-2010 season. They earned their title and with it all the pressures of defending it…and defend it they did.
So I asked myself, “why all the spinoffs from the truth?”
Is a team of unknown and possibility better the proven product? Or is it all just a ploy to calculate on the decisions that were made this past offseason?
Can the Miami Heat and its trio of stars capture it all, sure they can? That isn’t the question that needs to be addressed. What needs to be asked is are they a better team than the defending champions. And the answer is an emphatic no.
The Lakers are the champs, and the distinction is their earned honor, as well as their burden to carry.
With that stated. Should the Heat exceed expectation and make it to the Finals. The Lakers are going to need home-court advantage to give themselves the best shot at completing their quest for a third championship in three seasons.
They are going to need upwards of 66 plus games if one uses the barometer of what LeBron James did with a possibly lesser club in Cleveland this past season. Factor that in with Dwyane Wade’s flare for the dramatic when he’s in “his house.” And it’s easy to see why the Lakers must attain home-court advantage throughout the season.
So enjoy my: 20 Trap Games That LA Must Avoid Losing.
1. Houston Rockets: Oct. 26, 2010 (Home)
The first game takes place on opening night. The Lakers will be facing a Rockets team that’s loaded with talent and always a tough win.
This game has so many subplots that it can run off of. There’s the ring ceremony, the return of Yao Ming, the Lakers needing to prove a point to the Heat that they are indeed the champs, and so on.
The Rockets actually have more talent, but the Lakers have been playing longer together as a core unit. It’s not certain how long Yao will play, but if it’s under 30 minutes Lakers fans shouldn’t worry about much.
2. Phoenix Suns: Oct. 29, 2010 (Away)
This is a rematch to the Western Conference Finals, kind of. The Suns have had to revamp with the departure of “traitor” Amar’e Stoudemire.
The Lakers could be 0-1 entering this game, while playing in a hostile arena packed with revenge-craving fans.
The Suns can’t match the Lakers in size, and with rookie Gani Lawal and third year center Robin Lopez being the only low post presences, the Lakers can simply crowd the Suns shooters.
If the Suns get a huge game from Steve Nash things could go sour real quick for the Lakers. Still, I don’t see them losing to the Suns.
3. Portland Trailblazers: Nov. 7, 2010 (Home)
If the Blazers are healthy come this match-up, the Lakers will really see where they stand as a team. Portland is the one team that is longer and stronger than the Lakers.
They have the largest collection of frontline talent and skill. And with a backcourt featuring Brandon Roy and Andre Miller, they can pose the biggest problem to the Lakers title hopes…maybe more so than the Celtics or Heat.
I expect the Lakers to down play the importance of the game, it's second nature to them. However, a win for Portland could propel its club to achieve greater aspirations.
4. Milwaukee Bucks: Nov. 16, 2010 (Away)
Fear the Deer is in full affect in this game. The Lakers take their show on the road to face Brandon Jennings and the Bucks.
For the sake of Laker fans, I hope they don’t take this club lightly. The Bucks have gotten very little attention for what they have accomplished this offseason, but this team is one of the five best in the East.
If Andrew Bogut is healthy and Drew Gooden performs as well as he did with the Clippers, the Lakers are going to have their hands full.
The Bucks have size and a defensive tenacity that a rival, if not exceeds that of the Lakers. One of the better but less noticeable match-ups of the early season.
5. Chicago Bulls: Nov 23, 2010 (Home)
The Chicago Bulls come to town in this match-up. Derrick Rose and his newly acquired Jazz-rejects will look to make a name for themselves with a win over the NBA champs.
The Bulls lack the height to contend with the Lakers on the low-block, but have the youth and energy to get after the champions. Not that it guarantees much success.
But with the talents of Rose, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, and Joakim Noah much can be achieved in dire situations.
6. Utah Jazz: Nov. 26, 2010 (Home)
The Utah Jazz looks to get some payback from being ousted in last season’s playoffs. The match-up features two or arguably the top players at their position in Kobe Bryant and Deron Williams.
Williams and his Jazz team bring a new toy to utilize against the Lakers in Al “no defense needed” Jefferson. It’s unknown how he and Williams will click. Should they somehow find a rhythm during this game, things could turn sour for the Lakers real fast.
The game also features Raja “I snubbed Kobe” Bell. Mr. Bryant might find added motivation and be inspired to show Bell that he made the wrong decision.
7. Houston Rockets: Dec. 1, 2010 (Away)
This is Round 2 of the season opener. Safe to say that both teams have had enough time to jell, and one is upset about its previous loss.
The crowd in Houston will be stoked for this game…unless the Rockets were blown out on Opening Day. It’ll also be interesting to see how Yao is progressing thus far into this point of the season.
If he isn’t healthy, the Lakers should have very little trouble trying to slow down Aaron Brooks.
8. Los Angeles Clippers: Dec. 8, 2010 (Away)
In this battle for the city of Los Angeles, this game will feature a huge collection of extremely versatile players. The match-up also has several high profile position match-ups.
Pau Gasol versus the second-year rookie Blake Griffin is an intriguing one to watch. Then there’s Eric Gordon fresh off his FIBA gold-medal accomplishment. It’ll be interesting to see how he goes at Kobe, knowing that his name is a little more known.
However, Andrew Bynum versus Chris Kaman and Derek Fisher versus Baron Davis may be the keys to a Lakers win.
9. Miami Heat: Dec 25, 2010 (Home)
Finally, 29 games into the season complete and we have a possible NBA Finals preview. This could very well end up as the NBA version of, "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas."
The Heat could enter this game with three of the top 10 most efficient players in the league. Such a thing does not bode well for the Lakers. It wouldn’t be a big deal if they lose; every team has bad nights against quality clubs. The problem would lie in them being beaten in a convincing manner. Last thing the Lakers want happening is the Heat building up their confidence.
It’ll be vital for Kobe to play a team-oriented game. His main goal should be focused on getting Bynum off because he’s the only Laker with a distinctive advantage over his man. Gasol needs to keep Chris Bosh in check also…something he struggled to do last season.
Without doubt, this will be the highlight of the season thus far.
10. New Orleans Hornets: Dec. 29, 2010 (Away)
This is a trap game if ever there was one. The Lakers will be either high off a win over Miami or mad as a rabbit dog because of the loss.
If the Hornets are healthy they can pose all kinds of trouble with their new youth program. The perimeter players in particular could pose the biggest problems.
Chris Paul, Marcus Thornton and Trevor Ariza will be a nightmare in the transition game. Lakers don’t have the speed to match them. The Lakers will need the taller Bynum and Gasol to control this game over Emeka Okafor and David West.
11. Golden State Warriors: Jan. 12, 2011 (Away)
Another FIBA gold-medal winner sets his sights on making a name for himself. Stephen Curry will lead his Warriors club against the mighty Lakers in this match-up of high-octane scoring.
The Lakers are going to have their hands full playing the back court of Monta Ellis and Curry. Both players might come into the game averaging 20+ points, five-plus rebounds, and five-plus assists.
The Warriors are a more balanced team than a year ago and have added length also. The rookie Ekpe Udoh should be back from his injury by now. His defense and athletic ability could pose a lot of problems for the Lakers.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder: Jan. 17, 2011 (Away)
The kids from OKC come to town looking for some get-back for being ousted in the playoffs. This is the first of three games in five days versus teams that made the playoffs last season.
The game will feature two more FIBA gold-medal winners in Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. The duo will lead a roster that has made roster upgrades to the spots they needed.
The Lakers won't fear Durant as they have already proven they have what it takes to encase the young talent. Instead, their focus will be on the vastly underrated and under-utilized Russell Westbrook, who is the Thunders best all-around player.
If the Lakers allow him to get going it could be a long night. Unlike Durant, Westbrook can get 30 points and 10 assists when he’s on his game. Shannon Brown will be key in this match-up.
13. Dallas Mavericks: Jan 19, 2011 (Away)
They say everything is bigger in Texas. Well the Dallas Mavericks will play host to the defending champions, and boy did they get a lot bigger this offseason.
With their acquisition of Tyson Chandler and resigning of Brendan Haywood, the Mavs know have the length needed to contend with the Lakers…no signs on if they purchased any heart during the offseason.
All jokes aside, the Lakers shouldn’t have any problems with the Mavs unless Caron Butler decides to help Dirk Nowitzki with the scoring load.
14. Denver Nuggets: Jan 21, 2011 (Away)
With the Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith situations still pending, the Nuggets could very well look anything but like a playoff team. However, if Anthony is still a part of the Nuggets organization, this could very well be a difficult win for the Lakers.
Lakers killer Chauncey Billups is still a Nugget ,and fresh off of leading Team USA to gold in the FIBA World Championships. He’ll no doubt have the Nuggets in upset mode.
The Nuggets luck-up in this match-up because the Lakers will be on the back-end of games between the Thunder, Mavericks, and Nuggets. The bench will be key as the starters will have possibly logged some heavy minutes from the previous two games.
15. Boston Celtics: Jan 30, 2011 (Home)
The Boston Celtics return to the place where they choked, and left a golden opportunity on the table. In an attempt to not allow the same thing to happen, they beefed up their front line to the tune of two O’Neals.
Neither team might not be healthy at this stage of the season, if they are, look for another possible instant classic from these two historic franchises.
I expect Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to be extra pumped to make-up for their poor NBA Finals showings.
16. New York Knicks: Feb. 9, 2011 (Away)
The Lakers travel to Madison Square Garden for Round 2 of their series with the new Knicks. The Knicks will be pumped up to put on a good showing for the home crowd. And with so many players who draw off emotions on their team, the Knicks won’t go quietly.
The Lakers need to end this one quickly. The game will be the fourth of a seven-game road trip in a 12 days span. The three back half teams were all playoff teams last season.
The Lakers will have difficulties with the combination of Amar'e Stoudemire and Anthony Randolph. But the key to a win might be the Lakers keeping the outside shooting of Danilo Gallinari in check.
17. Orlando Magic: Feb. 13, 2011 (Away)
The Lakers travel to Orlando to test the Magic. The game shouldn’t be much different than the one last season with both teams basically yielding the same teams, minus a few players here and there.
Orlando will be motivated to keep pace with Miami as every Eastern Conference elite team will be fighting to avoid a second round match-up with the Heat. That coupled with the Magic being an extremely talented and balanced team, will make things difficult for the Magic.
However, the Lakers are still too tall. So unless Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson, and Vince Carter show up big, the Lakers should squeak out a win.
18. Charlotte Bobcats: Feb. 14, 2011 (Away)
Kobe brings the “Lake Show” to town to take on Michael Jordan’s team. Team Jordan spanked the Lakers 98-83 in their last meeting. So it’s safe to say the Lakers will be motivated for some payback.
The Bobcats are arguably the team most capable at containing Bryant with their defensive oriented wing-duo of Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson. Both players are tall, physical and extremely athletic.
They also happen to be the two players the Lakers have to contain. The Bobcats will likely be at the bottom half of the Eastern Conference playoff standings, and motivated to get a win.
This will be one of the most physical games this season…and we get to see Kwame Brown take on Gasol. Absolute must-see-tv.
19. Oklahoma City Thunder: Feb 27, 2011 (Away)
The pesky kids from OKC play host to the Lakers. The Thunder fans will have the volume pumped to the max in support of their beloved team.
The game will be the same as the previous, plenty of lead changes and defensive plays being made by both teams. Depending on how the season goes, this could be a game that decides who is the winner of the Western Conference.
I expect the Lakers to be geared up for this match-up. Their future could very well be on the line at this point.
20. Miami Heat: Mar. 10, 2011 (Away)
In what could possibly be their fiery grave, the Lakers travel to Miami to complete its season series with the Heat. The Miami fans will no doubt taunt the defending champs with chants of, "Beat L.A." and "We da best."
The Heat might have the best record in the league come this game or they might be as low as the fourth seed because of chemistry issues. Being that the playoffs are just around the corner. Neither team would be in a position to just throw a game away.
It'll be interesting to see how the Lakers hold up in Miami. Since 2008, only Kobe Bryant has played particularly well versus Miami on its home court. Even if the Lakers loose this game it isn’t a sign of what the future holds.
We all have learned that the Lakers are a team built for the playoffs.