In a world where everything is instant, overreaction is expected. Today’s world has no gray area, only black and white. Seeing things differently and reading between the lines is too much work. That’s where your 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers stand right now.
The Lakers are underachieving after having the most glamorized offseason of any team since the Miami Heat of 2010. When they stole Steve Nash from the Suns and did virtually the same thing with Dwight Howard, everyone thought they were shoe-ins for the NBA Finals. But with where they stand at right now — at 19-25 — people are already writing them off.
People are using the “B” word more than ever when describing the Lakers — B as in blow the team up. We are barely halfway through the season. I know they haven’t played up to their standards yet (and they likely won’t). This looked like a 60-win team when they were first assembled. Just because we’ve lowered expectations doesn’t mean they should be separated. It’s not every day you get the best center in the NBA and have the luxury of pairing him with a top shooting guard, a top point guard and a power forward that looked like the best low post player in the world during the summer Olympics.
Of course, everything with the Lakers will always be blown out of proportion. They lose one game and the knee jerk reaction is “What’s wrong with them?” They win one and everyone wants to claim they’re “back.” But just to get to .500 by the end of the year, they must finish 22-16 with 21 of those games coming on the road (where they’re 5-15 this year). Still, that doesn’t mean the playoffs are completely out of the picture. They have one of the most talented rosters in the NBA.
Of course, there will be many things that must go their way. They’re in the 10th spot in the West right now, tied with the Dallas Mavericks. From here on out, every game is basically a must-win. But there are some games they absolutely cannot afford to lose — especially once April hits. Starting next month, they play the Brooklyn Nets on February 5, Miami on February 10, the Clippers on February 14, Portland on February 22, and the Denver Nuggets on February 25. It will be important to start their second half stretch right, and they’ll need to win at least two of those Western Conference games, and probably four out of five overall. Their matchups with Portland are especially important. The Blazers are 22-22 — only three games ahead of the Lakers. They’ll have two games against Portland in this second half stretch and they’ll need to capitalize on both of them.
In March, the Lakers have an easier month. They play the Hawks twice, Indiana once, and Chicago once as well. These are games they must win, but it isn’t as important as the Western Conference games they have coming up. They play the Thunder on March 5 and the Warriors 20 days later. The Warriors game is most important because it’s within their division.
They’ll also play Sacramento twice in March and Phoenix just once — all games the Lakers must win.
But April is their most important month. They’re going to close the season against all of the Western Conference teams they need to beat. They play Dallas on April 2, Memphis on April 5, the Clippers on April 7, Portland on April 10, Golden State on April 12, San Antonio on April 14, and Houston (the current No. 8 seed) on April 17. They will probably be battling with Portland, Houston and Dallas for the No. 8 seed. These are games that they’ll need to win to possible swing the tiebreakers to their side and get that final playoff spot.
For now, the next seven games will be very important to them. Before playing Miami in February, their next seven opponents (outside of the Brooklyn Nets) are a combined 63 games below .500 (120-183). Before you know it, the Lakers could be riding a seven-to-nine game winning streak.