News » NBA 2008-12-29


NBA 2008-12-29


NBA 2008-12-29
We now return you to our regularly scheduled program.

With all the excitement about the Christmas game, a prelude to the hoped-for Finals rematch, nobody bothered to explain what happens between now and June.

The Lakers will play a lot more games, that's what will happen. With only 30 in the book, that leaves 52, 49 against teams other than Boston and Cleveland.

Fittingly, the rest of the Lakers' lives started Sunday with ragtag 9-22 Golden State.

In other words, the Warriors were exactly the kind of team the Lakers had been waltzing with deep into fourth quarters before getting serious enough to play hard.

Sunday night, the Lakers won, 130-113, making it their third most impressive showing in a month, after the Christmas game and the win in New Orleans that preceded it.

That will tell you what kind of a month it was before those three games.

"They've got the whole package," Golden State Coach Don Nelson said of the Lakers. "They've got a chance to win the whole thing this year.

"The other team that I saw that was really good was Orlando. I know what Boston is doing and what they did and everything else, but they still have two players missing from their last team [James Posey, who signed with New Orleans; P.J. Brown, who retired] who were really important to them. They have to get those guys back or replace them with somebody.

"I just think the Lakers, after going to the Finals, they know what it takes. They're so well-coached and disciplined.

"Kobe now has a grasp on the game like no other player. He controls it when he wants to and he lets the other players alongside of him succeed. He's a leader out there. . . .

"[He's] not just the best player in the league, he's the best leader. He could get 50 any time, I'm sure."

Bryant settled for 31 on Sunday, playing only 31 minutes, taking only 15 shots.

With Bryant and Pau Gasol coming off long Olympic campaigns, Derek Fisher playing heavy minutes at 34 and the Celtics still on a 72-win pace, any thought Coach Phil Jackson had of going all-out for the best record has been put aside.

Asked about the possibility his team would let down before Sunday's game, Jackson said he was figuring on one.

"It's not unusual," Jackson said. "It wouldn't be unusual at all.

"I think you have to meet the energy each game requires. This is a marathon race, an NBA season. We play 82 games and then we go into playoffs which are overextended as it is. As a consequence, we have to marshal our energy a lot during the course of the year. . . .

"They do it naturally in a game. If it's a big game, they're excited about it. This is an experienced team. They know when to put the pressure on teams. . . . "

If Sunday night's effort didn't match the heights the Lakers reached Christmas, it was still professional compared with their last letdown, which lasted weeks.

To the Warriors, it was devastating, but there's little left of the exciting team that stunned top-seeded Dallas in 2007 and won 49 games last season.

Aside from losing Baron Davis to the Clippers and Monta Ellis in a moped injury, their organization is in transition with General Manager Chris Mullin on his way out, and Nelson expected to take over there too.

Just think if you were Corey Maggette, leaving the Clippers and finding himself in all too familiar circumstances.

"Our team is like playing with the old Clippers, when we had all our guys under 22," Maggette said.

"There's a lot of stuff going on with management. You don't know what's going on, but all in all, I think our common goal is to win."

It almost makes a guy feel as if he never left, which in a way he hasn't, having spent recent weeks here, rehabbing his torn hamstring.

"In the beginning I felt like that," Maggette said. "But being in the Bay Area, when the temperature dropped to 38 degrees out there, I felt like I was back in Chicago."

Nevertheless, Nelson always has a bunch of scorers who can be dangerous, as the Celtics found out last week, losing to the Warriors in Oakland.

Sunday, the Lakers took them seriously, stepped on them and then conserved their energy.

It worked a lot better than all those games when they did it the other way around.

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mark.heisler@latimes.com


Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 29, 2008

 

 
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