Don't count Lakers out
Words on Sport/
In early November the headlines were all negative: "Lakers start with a dismal 2-5 record." On Jan. 8, the Lakers were 8 1/2 games behind the front-running Portland Trail Blazers. The critics predicted that at best they
could finish second in the division -- first place was out of the question. The following day, the Lakers embarked on a journey which saw them win 16 consecutive games (the longest winning streak this season). By March 19, the Lakers were in sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division.
Why did Sports Illustrated consider them finished? First, people thought that Magic was finished and that his drive for excellence was no longer sufficient to carry Los Angeles. Secondly, they thought with a new coach and two new players, it would take the Lakers a year to adjust and by that time, Worthy and Magic would be too old.
The reason the Lakers are back is simply because of Mr. Ervin "Magic" Johnson. With his league leading 10th triple double, he has at times been a one-man team. His philosophy is plain and simple: winning! Whatever it takes, he will deliver. He will definitely be a finalist in the MVP
voting this year.
The second reason is defense. There are only two teams in the NBA which hold their opponents below 100 points per game. Detroit limits its opponents to 96.5 points per game but only scores 99.7. The Lakers, on the other hand, limit opponents to 99.0 points per game and at the same time score 106.2 points per game. This is quite an accomplishment considering their vulnerability at center.
The third reason is Mike Dunleavy. To take the place of a coach who won five NBA titles in
one decade and voted coach of the year is no easy task. Pat Riley established a dynasty in Los Angeles and when he left, there were bigshoes to fill. Not only did Dunleavy maintain the excellence, but he also managed to incorporate Perkins and Teagle without disrupting the system. Perkins is an excellent post-up player and has been a big part in the Lakers' comeback.
The Lakers have taken a slightly different outlook in their rise to the top. They are running less and playing better defense. These are two things which are crucial in the playoffs.
Whereas before the team relied on outscoring the opponent with an offensive punch, LA now focuses on shutting down its opponents. This formula seems to be working, as the Lakers are one of the best teams in the league once again. If they stay focused on the championship, they will surely find themselves in the finals. Never count a team which has won five championships out!