The Lakers' win over the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday was one of their best performances of the season, with Andrew Bynum having a career night, but some don't want to read much into it given how the Lakers have derped after big wins several times this season. The fact that this win was against the Western Conference leader, and played without the Lakers' best player in Kobe Bryant, made this a true statement game. But are we getting ahead of ourselves at this point? Should we perhaps be tempering our excitement? Can Metta World Peace keep up the pace he's set for the past month? Can Steve Blake continue to play well or will he fall back to earth soon?
World Peace's sudden emergence doesn't look impressive just because he's scoring more. It's the way he's doing it. He's taking on-balance three-point shots and jumpers. He has shown speed when he attacks the basket. He seems focused.
Blake's also managed to impact games beyond his numbers. In New Orleans, a pair of charges were drawn and he not only tracked down an otherwise certain turnover, but managed to huck the ball while airborne to Ramon Sessions. The possession ended with Barnes scoring at the rim, but Blake enabled the basket, even as the only principle who didn't enter the box score on the sequence. Against the Spurs, he prevented a fast break by hustling back on transition, squaring up Stephen Jackson and getting his mitts on the ball. Slowed by Blake, Jackson had to take the ball out, and the ensuing possession came up dry.
Tonight the Lakers face the Denver Nuggets, a team they've beaten twice so far this season. But since that last game, things have changed (Derek Fisher out, Ramon Sessions in) and, while the Lakers have been playing some decent basketball, this is the moment we've been dreading--the post-awesome-win-letdown. With just seven games left in the season, the Lakers are trying to hold onto the tenuous lead they have over the Clippers and keep the number three seed in the West. Hopefully, they won't disappoint us with a dismal home loss after an impressive road victory.