The Los Angeles Lakers have five games left on their schedule, and with a loss Sunday to the Los Angeles Clippers their playoff hopes look extremely bleak. Many fans and experts may say that the Lakers need to win their remaining five games, and that may be true, but the key to another Lakers playoff berth is their next two games. Back to back games against the New Orleans Hornets at home, followed by a game on the road against the Portland Trail Blazers.
While many people may not see these games as being against elite teams, they are two teams that the Lakers have struggled with recently. The Lakers were down 25 points to the Hornets in their latest meeting, and rallied to win late in the fourth quarter. On the other hand the Lakers have faced the Trail Blazers three times this season, winning twice at home, and losing once on the road.
The Rose Garden has been a notable place for Lakers fans, for all the wrong reasons. Since acquiring Kobe Bryant in the 1996 NBA draft via trade, the Lakers are a miserable 7-24 in the regular season at the Rose Garden. Not exactly the type of numbers you like to see while heading into a game that is so crucial.
First off though, the Lakers need to handle business with the Hornets. Too often the Lakers have let the Hornets find a nice rhythm, get comfortable, and open up a big lead. This formula will doom them tomorrow night if they allow it to happen. The following night the Lakers will need to step up in a big way, and head coach Mike D’Antoni will need to swallow his pride and use more than a seven man rotation.
If D’Antoni cannot see that the Lakers are wilting in the second half of many back to backs this year, an attempt in which they’ve managed to fail at sweeping 15 times this season, and only win three games on the back half, then the Lakers are in trouble. Two Lakers wins on Tuesday and Wednesday will be a huge momentum booster and, in my opinion, propel them into the playoffs yet again.
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