You can change the players. You can change the chemistry. You can change the philosophy. You can change the expectations. But the more you change in Lakerland, the more things stay the same.
For three quarters, the Los Angeles Lakers were the best that we could have hoped they would be this season. They were fun. They were explosive. Their defense was mediocre, but not awful. They played fast and they drained shots. And they were also winning comfortably in one of those rare games in which their opponent, in this case the Atlanta Hawks, did not have significantly more talent on the floor than they did. The lead was 11 after the first quarter, 13 at the half, 12 after the 3rd. And then, in all too familiar circumstances, the Lakers let Atlanta back in the game.
Behind some incredible shooting from Kyle Korver (8-10 shooting on the evening, 6-6 from three including a 30 footer at one point late in the 4th), the Hawks started chipping away at the lead, and more importantly, the Lakers stopped doing anything to build it back up. The shots stopped falling, the turnovers started mounting, and the Lakers had the look of a team prepared to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. But a bizarre final minute, including a Hawks back-court violation, a final Lakers offensive possession that lasted 35 seconds (thanks to another beastly offensive rebound from Jordan Hill) and a mildly controversial blocking foul which sent Pau Gasol to the free throw line for the game's final two points, the Lakers managed six seconds of defense and prevented Korver from hitting another dagger to send the game into overtime, leaving the Lakers victorious by the final score of 105-103.
So a night that started off strong (We see you, Steve Nash) ended with the Lakers limping their way over the finish line, but at least they got there. Games like tonight are what will make the difference between the Lakers fighting for a playoff spot or adding to their ping pong ball collection at season's end, and tonight, they came out on the right end of the equation.