Staff Writer: Ryan Ward
No team in the NBA this season has had more pressure on them from the get go than the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers. Kobe Bryant and company dominated the Orlando Magic in the NBA Finals last season proving that they were far and away the best team in the league last year. This season they came into the season with the same goal and so far, they have done pretty good in their title defense and look to have a good chance of repeating as NBA champs.
Despite a few bumps in the road during their title defense, the Los Angeles Lakers have been able to fight through any adversity they have faced like injuries, a losing streak and locker room turmoil between Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.
Even with all the extra hype and added pressure of being defending champs, the Los Angeles Lakers have proven they have no intention of backing down to any opponent this season and will be a force to be reckoned with come playoff time.
There are a few teams in the Western Conference that could give the defending champs a run for their money in the postseason like the Denver Nuggets, but with the way Kobe Bryant and company are playing right now, I really can’t see any team taking them to the limit besides the Cleveland Cavaliers if they happen to meet in the NBA Finals.
Earlier this season, last month as a matter of fact, the Los Angeles Lakers started to struggle as they were without Kobe Bryant for the majority of February have struggled when they got him back. Without Kobe in the lineup the Lakers won four of five games. That is not too bad playing without their best all around player, but getting used to playing without Kobe, the team didn’t know what to do with him back in the lineup.
As a result of getting Kobe Bryant back in the mix, the Lakers lost three straight games and people started to question whether or not they needed Kobe or the Lakers to contend for another title.
Obviously the ridiculous statement to say that the Los Angeles Lakers did not need Kobe as he is arguably the best player in the NBA, but it was obvious as well that they struggled to put him back as the first option in the offense.
Even though the three straight losses was the first time that the Los Angeles Lakers have lost that many games in a row since the Pau Gasol trade back in 2008, Kobe Bryant and company were able to get back on the horse and start another streak of their own with seven straight wins and a fighting chance of dethroning the Cleveland Cavaliers as the team with the best record in the NBA.
One thing on the Los Angeles Lakers mind’s right now is obviously repeating as NBA champs, but before that they want to head into the playoffs with the NBA’s best record and home court advantage when they need it the most.
As of right now, the Lakers are -3.5 games back of the Eastern Conference leading Cleveland Cavaliers, but there is still time for the Kobe and company to close the gap and if the Cavs make any mistakes from here on out I fully expected the Lakers to take advantage.