|1st Overall||4th Overall|
Statistics through 1/25/09
Pau Gasol (17.5 pts, 9.0 reb) looks like he's been playing the triangle offense his whole life ... Once Andrew Bynum (13.7 pts, 8.1 reb) starts consistently commanding double teams, watch out.
Kobe Bryant (26.3 pts) is still the best the game has to offer ... Derek Fisher is 34 but hasn't shown signs of aging.
Ever since the Celtics manhandled them in the Finals, the Lakers have made defense their mantra ... They are improved but still fall into scoring battles with the opponent too often.
Trevor Ariza is a game-changer and leads the team with 1.7 steals per game ... Lamar Odom (9.4 pts) still doesn't look completely comfortable as a reserve.
Phil Jackson implements the experience gained in winning nine rings every day, striving to keep his players sharp in the regular season yet making sure to rest guys for the playoffs.
Los Angeles has come into the season with a "championship or bust" mentality. It's hard to say the Lakers are straying from that mindset. Wins over Boston, Cleveland, New Orleans and San Antonio show that L.A. can handle the best out there. Two losses to Orlando, though, could make for a very interesting Disneyland vs. Disney World matchup in June.
The Lakers have been hit by the injury bug with Jordan Farmar (knee), Luke Walton (foot) and Lamar Odom (knee) all missing time, not to mention Bryant's dislocated ring finger on his shooting hand. Despite the list of maladies, L.A. hasn't experienced a dropoff in play and looks relatively healthy heading into the second half.
The Lakers played more home games than any other team during the first half. Now they'll have to win on the road to secure homecourt throughout the playoffs. -- Dave McMenamin
Explanation of Marking System