While that team in South Beach answers questions about crying in locker rooms and bricking buzzer beaters, the defending champions are doing what they do best – cruising.
Make it seven straight since the all-star break for the suddenly hot Lakers. The Lakers have been doing it with defense. Sunday against the league-leading San Antonio Spurs (51-12), marked the fourth straight game the Lakers held their opponent under 90 points. Andrew Bynum is rounding into regular season form, averaging 11 points, 12 rebounds and 3.4 blocks in 29 minutes of action over his last five games. The last two games, Bynum has pulled down 17 boards. Bynum is currently averaging 26 minutes a night and it will be interesting to see whether head coach Phil Jackson will play him more to get him in game shape or hold him back to keep his knees healthy in anticipation of a long playoff run.
The Lakers are getting healthier during their win streak as they welcomed Matt Barnes back into the rotation. Barnes missed the last 26 games due to a partially torn tendon in his knee. The Lakers went 18-8 in his absence, but they certainly missed his defensive intensity and ability to stretch the floor and hit the long distance jumper. His return will provide much needed depth and should ease the offensive pressure off Ron Artest, who is shooting only 35% over his last five games and just a tick over 40% for the entire season.
Kobe Bryant did receive his 13th technical foul on Sunday. Sixteen technicals warrant an automatic one-game suspension. With the Lakers still six and a half games behind the Spurs in the chase for the best record and home court throughout the playoffs, each game is crucial. Still, I don’t expect Bryant to change his demeanor, especially as we come down the stretch and the games garner particular importance. In other words, don’t expect tears from 24.