After an Impossible February, Los Angeles Looks Ahead to The Final Stretch of the Season

The Los Angeles Lakers spent most of the month of February mourning the loss of Kobe Bryant. Most nights there was some type of tribute to Bryant, whether it was a moment of silence or 24 second violations, remembering Bryant was apart of most Lakers games. Even with the celebration of his life earlier this week, and the Lakers gradually moving on with their season, the hurt and sadness will never subside for good. It will be with this team, and the city of Los Angeles forever. Looking forward, it has been a very long time since the Lakers last played a normal basketball game, but with the Bryant ceremonies out of sight, all that is left on the surface is just that, a normal basketball game.

February Recap

Despite the aforementioned impossible February, the Lakers were actually phenomenal on the court. The Lakers went 9-2 in the month of February, picking up some very impressive victories. They handled their business against teams they should like the Kings, Spurs, Warriors, Suns, Pelicans, and Grizzlies. But the two games that I think caught everyone’s eye were the 120-116 OT win against Denver, and the 114-112 win over the rival Boston Celtics.

The Denver Nuggets game might be the best win the Lakers had all season long. This was the final game before the NBA All Star Weekend, a game teams often go through the motions for as they look ahead to the weekend or the week off. But too the credit of both squads, they came to compete. The game had everything a great game needs. Like back and forth rallies? Well this was truly a game of rallies by both teams as the Lakers tailed by as many as 13 points early on and at one point led by 11. Enjoy unexpected role players shinning? Let me introduce you to Alex Caruso who dropped a quick 10 points in his limited action. Are you the person who only watches for the stars? Lebron James had a triple double and Anthony Davis hit the dagger 3 to send the Lakers into the break on a high note.

Los Angeles is in a good place, sitting atop the conference with a 45-13 record and a conformable 5.5 game lead over both the Clippers and Nuggets.

Looking ahead to March, the Lakers have three games that will test them. The Lakers are 3-7 against the top teams in the East and West, not a good look for them come the playoffs. Part of the March schedule will feature teams the Lakers have struggled with.

March 6th: Lakers vs Bucks: 

In what could very well be a NBA Finals matchup come June, this second meeting between these teams should be a great one. In the first meeting the Lakers were dominated despite it only being a 111-104 loss. The Bucks were up 21 at one point and never had to sweat with the Lakers largest lead being just 3. I would expect the Lakers to come out and try to make a statement with this game.

March 8th: Lakers vs Clippers

That 3-7 record includes an 0-2 record against the Clippers. Looking at the playoffs, it appears the Western Conference is going to come through Staples Center with the Lakers and Clippers as the current 1-2 seeds. Unless there is an unforeseen upset, we should have a Lakers-Clippers conference finals and the Lakers are going to need to find some solution to the issue they have with the Clippers. The biggest issue with the Lakers in this matchup so far has been sub-par games from Lebron James. In the two matchups, James is averaging just 20.5 points, on 37% shooting, and an abysmal 3-17 from 3 point range. Across the board James has not been his usual self in this matchup. It has a lot to do with the amount of elite defenders the Clippers can throw his way. Look to see James use this game as a way to construct a blue print to win if they happen to meet in a series. Either way, James will need to attack the ri and be aggressive this time around and not settle for the contested jump shot. Another interesting wrinkle in this 3rd matchup is the new additions the Clippers brought in. They still have to find their rhythm and rotations with a surplus of deserving talent with limited minutes available.

March 24th: Lakers at Toronto 

The final interesting matchup of the month is the Lakers trip to Canada to take on the defending champions who handled the Lakers quite easily back in November. The long and athletic wings create some annoyance for the Lakers who like to play big. The addition of Markieff Morris could lend itself to the Lakers playing some more small ball with AD at the 5 and allowing them to match up with the athletes of Toronto. More so than the talent on the court, I think the late season road game in an arena with championship energy can be good for the team to experience leading up to the playoffs where they will face it every night.

By the end of the month we should have a clear understanding of where the Lakers are in relation to the other elite teams in the NBA, and just how formidable they can be


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