A week ago I said that the Lakers were vulnerable down low with Andrew Bynum. That was last week. Since back to back losses in San Antonio, and home to Orlando last week, the Lakers have looked deadly at home. The four game winning streak, highlighted by victories over Cleveland and San Antonio has the Lakers playing the best basketball they have all year.
Monday night's affair with LeBron James' Cavs was a potential NBA Finals preview, and the Lakers won soundly by 17. The lack of support by LeBron's teammates allowed the Lakers' total team effort to handle the Eastern Conference leaders. While LeBron dropped 23, and Mo Williams added just 16, the Lakers had six in double digits, including double-doubles from Odom an Gasol.
It is the total team effort that make the Lakers the best team in the NBA when they're on top of their game. Kobe has arguably the best cast around he's ever had, and with Bynum's play peaking as of late and the return of point guard Jordan Farmar(above), Phil Jackson could be close to getting the ring for his other thumb.
Bryant's ability to play the two without being his team's only weapon has improved his game, and that of his teammates. His points are down, averaging his fewest points since 2003-2004, but Kobe's entourage is thriving.
Bynum dropped 42 on hallway rivals the Clippers, and has contributed 14 double-doubles, including reaching the feat in the team's last three. Gasol has lessened the pressure on the 21 year old, and is averaging just four points less than Bryant, while the young Jordan Farmar has been the Lakers' spark plug. Farmar's return is huge for the club, adding speed and defense to the club. The former UCLA standout missed 17 games with an ankle injury, and returned Sunday to face the Spurs.
"We missed [Farmar] a lot. He makes our second unit go, he's the motor. Now that he's back, everybody falls into their natural positions and we are back clicking on all cylinders."With four players averaging in double digits, and one of the league's most valuable Sixth Men, in Lamar Odom, it was no suprise that the Lakers obliterated the Spurs. Gregg Popovich's veteran team were held to just 21% from distance, and let the lights-out Lakers shoot 46% from the floor.
-Kobe Bryant, ESPN.
The Lakers held the Spurs to poor shot selections all day, and Bynum's four blocked shots clogged the paint and the games of Tim Duncan and Fabricio Oberto. Should Bynum continue his performance of late, and Farmar solifidy their pace at the point, the Lakers should have no problem with the Western Conference.
The Lakers were still the best team in the West during Farmar's injury and Bynum's inconsistant struggles, now Farmar is back and Bynum is hotter than ever. When the best team gets better, you know it will a long day for the rest of league.