LA Lakers: Why Kobe Bryant and Co. Don't Need Home Court Advantage To Three-Peat
Despite their loss in Miami last night (thanks in part to some very questionable officiating in the last two minutes), the Lakers are playing their best basketball of the season.
Of course, it should come as no surprise that the Lakers are peaking at the right time, because that is what championship teams do.
And as we all know, the Lakers are a championship team. A team seeking to make their fourth consecutive NBA Finals appearance, something that hasn't happened in the NBA since the Boston Celtics made four straight appearances between 1984 and 1987.
With only 16 games left in the regular season, the Lakers aren't going to catch the San Antonio Spurs for the No.1 seed in the West, and most likely won't catch the Celtics either, potentially setting up back-to-back playoff series on the road.
The last time the Lakers were the road team in a playoff series? The 2008 NBA Finals vs the Celtics. So with that in mind, let's take a look at why this year's Laker team doesn't need the home court advantage to win the title.
The Lakers have proven this year it doesn't matter where they play, because they can beat you anywhere. Their road record of 24-12 includes wins at Boston and San Antonio, which should give them plenty of confidence for their postseason run.
The Lakers have a huge matchup coming up at Dallas on Saturday that will go a long way towards determining if they are the No.2 or 3 seed in the West.
A win would get them back to within a 1/2 game of the Mavs for home court in their potential 2nd round matchup.
After the Dallas game, the Lakers return home for a seven game homestand to close out March, before finishing with four home games and four road games in April.
I predict the Lakers will go 14-2 to close out the season, finishing with a final record of 60-22. This will secure the No.2 seed in the West, with an outside shot of passing Boston for home court in a potential Finals rematch.
Experience and Leadership
When it comes to playoff experience, the Lakers are second to none. Both Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher have been to seven NBA Finals and have five shiny rings to show for it.
Fisher has played in 199 career playoff games, the fifth most in NBA history. He is second all-time in NBA Finals 3-pointers made, trailing only Robert Horry. He also has the highest three-point field goal percentage in NBA Finals history at 42.6 percent.
As we all are very much aware, it doesn't matter to Fisher if the Lakers are at home or in a hostile road environment; he has always excelled on the nation's biggest stage. Don't expect this to change during the Lakers 2011 road to the Three-Peat.
Fisher is the ultimate leader both on and off the court for the Lakers and many believe he will someday reside on the Lakers bench as their head coach. At this point in his career, his leadership skills are probably more valuable than his physical skills.
Bynum = Defense
The return of a healthy Andrew Bynum is really starting to pay big dividends for the Lakers.
Not only is he averaging 15.5 rebounds in his last four games, the Lakers as a team haven't allowed an opponent to score 100 points in regulation since before the All-Star Break.
They are allowing just over 86 points per game (not including the OT period vs Portland) during this 8-1 stretch, and it's been obvious that Bynum has been the difference.
I've said it before and I'll say it again; if Andrew Bynum is healthy for the duration of the playoffs, the Lakers absolutely will not lose a playoff series.
Barnes and Artest Will Frustrate Your Best Player
Ron Artest and Matt Barnes are two guys you absolutely LOVE to have on your side. They were all over LeBron James last night in Miami, forcing him into a 7-17 night, with just 19 points.
This was LeBron's lowest scoring output in a month and he was visibly annoyed with both defenders during the game.
Artest did the same thing to Kevin Durant and Paul Pierce in the playoffs last year and you can expect more of the same this year, except at a much higher level when you add in Barnes.
These are two guys that opponents absolutely hate to face because they get in your head right from the opening tip and refuse to leave you alone until the buzzer sounds.
One could reasonably equate the feeling to having a bee buzzing in your ear for two and half hours. Don't underestimate the addition of Barnes. He's been out the last couple of months with a knee injury, but you can count on him to be a huge factor come June.
By now, you've probably heard the story. After playing over 40 minutes against the Heat last night, Kobe returned to the floor at American Airlines Arena over an hour later and put himself through a grueling hour long shooting workout.
He told a reporter he "had some things to work on" and guessed that he hadn't done something like this since the 04 playoffs. The arena security guard was quoted as saying, "I've been here eight years and I've never seen anything like this."
And what did he do after the shooting drills? He headed straight for the weight room. That, my friends, is the difference between Kobe Bryant and the rest of the basketball players in the universe.
He just wants it more than everyone else. It's the reason he owns five rings today and the reason why, at 32, he wants to win five more. No one is more driven, no one is more competitive; Kobe wants to win more than you do and there is nothing you or anyone else can do about it.
He wants to become the all-time leading scorer in NBA history. He wants to win more rings than MJ. He wants to be known as the greatest guard to ever play the game.
About three months from now, there will be another parade in downtown Los Angeles. The Lakers will be celebrating their 17th title, equaling the Boston Celtics for the most in NBA history. Kobe will have his 6th ring, equaling the great Michael Jordan. And Phil Jackson will have his 12th ring, completing his fourth Three-Peat as he rides off into the sunset.
And the reason why all of this will happen? You know why.