With the Spurs dealing with injuries and currently on a four-game losing streak, all of a sudden the West's top spot seems like a reality for the Lakers. Count me as one of the people who feel the second seed is an easier path for the Lakers, but as time goes on, I'm back pedaling on that notion.
I'm fairly certain everyone will agree that there is no easier matchup than the New Orleans Hornets, who currently sit in the seventh spot. They can't beat the Lakers healthy, never mind with out their "17-Foot Assassin" David West. Not a chance in hell.
Likely Sweep: New Orleans Hornets
No good team matches up less well with the Lakers. Andrew Bynum and Paul Gasol tower over the Hornets' front line, there's no A-list shooting guard to make Kobe Bryant work on defense, and Chris Paul isn't the type of full-speed-ahead, assault-the-rim point guard that typically gives the Lakers trouble. The Hornets have lost six of their last seven to L.A. and nine of 12 since Pau came over from Memphis.
Still, should we be worried about seeding for a Lakers team we all feel is the best team in the NBA? A two-time defending champion team that just may be playing its best basketball than at any stretch in past few regular seasons? If we're talking about a team that is this good, I don't care who the Lakers play, whenever they play them, nor where.
I will agree to a degree that the path of least resistance seems like a good idea. We worry about rest and injuries. Still, recent history has shown us that romping in the first two rounds means absolutely nothing. The Celtics struggled in their first two matchups in 2008, while the Lakers cruised throughout th West. The Cavs romped in their early-round series for two seasons. How'd that end up?
Some of us are worried about seeing the Oklahoma City Thunder in the second round. I feel they are the biggest threat in the West. But if the Lakers are the team we know they are, should it matter when they play? Or shouldn't any expectations of seeing OKC in the Western Conference Finals mean they've made some major strides as a team? The more time goes by, the more I'd prefer to see the Thunder earlier, before they really gel. Either way, I'm confident that the Lakers at peak level won't lose no matter when or where.
- The way things are looking, if the Lakers stay in the second seed, they might face the Hornets anyway. Only a game separates the Hornets and Grizzlies, with the Rockets two games behind Memphis. With the season-ending injury to David West (and Rudy Gay), we might see the Hornets drop to the eighth seed.
- Dex had this to say about the Grizzlies:
Frisky But Manageable: Memphis Grizzlies
Between now and the middle of April, you'll read many, many articles describing the Grizzlies as "the team no one wants to face in the first round." Whether that's accurate, I suppose, is all in one's perspective. I suspect that whoever winds up playing, say, the Boston Celtics in the first round would be more than happy to trade for the Grizzlies. But I get what people are trying to say. The Grizz are a pesky bunch that seem to be improving game by game.
Memphis is one of only two teams to have beaten the Lakers twice this season. (The Spurs are the other.) They have good size in the paint and, in Shane Battier and Tony Allen, two bros who know what it's like to chase Kobe around in the playoffs. They're also tough on the offensive boards, a useful trait inasmuch as defensive rebounding has been a Laker sore spot all season. They probably don't have enough scoring pop to throw a real scare into the champs, but it's not hard to imagine them taking a game or even two at FedEx Forum.
- The Lakers currently have the best road record in the NBA at 25-12. In their previous championship campaigns, they were 23-18 in '09-'10 and 29-10 in '08-'09. Keep in mind that it seems much harder going for a three-peat, and the Lakers are just as good, if not better, on the road than they've been the previous two seasons.
In '08-'09, the Lakers were hungry and chasing the ring. This time, they're just smarter and know how to win on the road better.
- Ron Ron's been getting much love lately, and rightfully so. After Andrew Bynum, Ron is an X-factor for the Lakers. They're certainly good enough to win with mediocre performances from both Drew and Ron, but with both players playing this well? I can't picture the Lakers losing. Call me cocky, but it's just not fair for the Lakers to get this kind of production from players this good playing alongside Kobe, Pau and Lamar.
- Forum Blue and Gold makes a case for Ron Artest to make All-NBA First Team Defense. I'd like to make a case for him to be in next year's dunk contest. First Kobe starts dunking like he's 25 again, and now Ron is dunking period? Never mind from like 50 feet out? LakersFoEva's Create-a-Caption pic looks like there's no way Ron would have finished that dunk. And no, it wasn't photoshopped.
- Has anyone noticed that Pau has been dunking more? I mean on people, and with ferocity (for him anyway). He's not settling for that softy euro finger roll. Thank god.
- So...LeBron and 'em went out of their gloat about LeBron, Dwyane, and Chris Bosh all scoring 30 points and grabbing 10 rebounds versus Houston:
"Unbelievable," James said.
"That's why we get paid the big bucks," Wade said.
"One of the things we talked about when we came together was making history," Bosh said.
- Seriously. History? I thought you all came together to win not four, five or six championships, but more? Not to gloat about some meaningless statistical feat with about ten games left in the regular season. This is the problem with these three. They're all show and no substance. They should be locking in and focusing on trying to win a championship. You know, the real reason they get paid the "big bucks?" Nope, instead they're looking at themselves in the mirror, convincing themselves that they're changing the NBA. Overreacting to every loss and any win.
- The last set of teammates to pull off what LeBron and 'em did? Oscar Robertson, Wayne Embry and Jack Twyman of the '60-'61 Cincinnati Royals. Guess what? No rings. Real historical.
- The very same Royals that are now the Kings, in case you needed to verify that that trio never won a ring. We all know what banners the Kings have hanging in Arco. Oops, I meant, will have hanging in the Honda Center.
- Not only do we have a JV team / tenant in the Clippers, but now we'll have a freshman team in the guest house.
- Remember when Andrew Bynum was drafted? I do. I remember thinking, "Man, it's going to take a while to see how he pans out. Oh well. There's always free agency."
Land 'O Lakers wants to take you down memory lane. Six years flew by, huh?