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Lakers Will Be All Right

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Kobe Bryant shoves aside Sasha Pavlovic. AP Photo/Gus Ruelas

This was another statement game for the Lakers, and the Lakers answered.

The Cleveland LeBrons Cavaliers have been on a hot streak winning 12 of their last 15 including a win against the slumping Boston Celtics. Meanwhile the Lakers lost two close games in a row on the road in San Antonio and at home against the Orlando Magic Friday night.

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The Lakers had to win this game to prove to everyone yet again they could play against a very physical team, especially one that leads the league in fewest points allowed. Most importantly the Lakers had to win so that the fans here in Los Angeles don’t start storming the Staples.

All season long there has been the specter of last season’s Finals hanging over the team. Despite how well the team has played this season, each misstep has been met with harsh criticism. It’s like the entire city starts Steve Hartman’s wannabe chant of “131-92” after each Lakers turnover.

But the Lakers proved Monday night they are a tough team. They can absorb a hit and punch back.

In the opening minutes of the game, Kobe Bryant while guarding LeBron James jammed his shooting hand dislocating his ring finger. While trainer Gary Vitti popped the finger back into place and taped it up, the Lakers continued playing flat until the end of the first quarter. They took advantage of sloppy passing by the Cavs and erased a six point deficit taking a 26-24 lead.

After jabbing with the Cavs and trading leads for a while, the Lakers took a lead in the third and didn’t relinquish.

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They kept LeBron out of the paint and forced him to make awkward jump shots. They limited him to only 24 points, nine rebounds and four assists. But even though they shut him down, they scrambled and communicated well on the defensive floor not allowing the other Cavs to get comfortable.

What can be very frustrating with the Lakers is they don’t show this sort of effort every game, but they don’t need to. Why waste all the energy early in the season and risk being flat-footed in the playoffs?

All we need to do is look at the Boston Celtics. They looked unstoppable for a period of time winning 19 straight games. But then they made a trip to the west coast losing seven of their next nine games. They lost their step, and the once seemingly invincible team looks like a bunch of aged has-beens during that stretch.

Just relax. Let the Lakers get healthy and gain the experience with each game that passes. They’re going to be all right, and I have no doubt in my mind they will be the team home court advantage throughout the playoffs.

As a postscript, the team with the best record in the NBA right now is the Orlando Magic. And it will take magic for them to be taken seriously as championship contenders.