Not so long ago the Lakers stood at 13-13, feeling pretty good all things considered. Now the Lakers are 13-17 after a disappointing two point loss at the Utah Jazz. If the Lakers truly are a team with playoff aspirations, they need to turn things around fast. With a favorable schedule over the next four games, the Lakers could find themselves back at .500 if all things fall into place.
The Lakers next four opponents are the 76ers, Bucks, Jazz and Nuggets, all of whom will play at Staples Center. Each one of these teams is sub-.500; a stretch that the Lakers must take advantage of. Following those four home games, the Lakers are on the road for 10 of their next 11 games due to the annual Grammy road trip. If the Lakers aren’t able to quickly right the ship, those road games could spell disaster for a team already struggling. Although they have played better recently, the Lakers still don’t have the same consistency on the road as they do at home.
Not only are the next four games against sub-.500 competition, but they are each in the bottom half of points allowed. This is welcome news for a team that has been struggling to run the offense due to the lack of “true” point guard depth. Without Steve’s Nash and Blake or Kobe, the Lakers have been forced to use a point guard by committee as the backup. Even though Jodie Meeks, Xavier Henry, and Nick Young are all nice players, none of them have the play-making ability to truly lead the 2nd unit. Earlier in the season, the 2nd unit ran more effectively than the first team. Now the 2nd unit’s scoring comes mainly from Henry and Young creating their own looks and Jordan Hill cleaning up on misses.
With many weeks to go before the return of a true point guard (or Kobe), it is imperative for Coach Mike D’Antoni to concoct a way to get his 2nd unit into a rhythm. These next four home games are the perfect opportunity. If the team can string together some wins, that momentum can help push the Lakers towards that daunting road slate with some confidence. The main problem for the Lakers over these next four games will be how to stop the opposing point guards. The 76ers have rookie sensation Michael Carter-Williams, the Bucks have Brandon Knight, the Jazz have Trey Burke who just dropped 14 points and 7 assists on the Lakers, and the Nuggets have Ty Lawson, who has been having a career year. Jordan Farmar will certainly have his hands full and will need all the help he can get.
For the team to truly feel good about themselves, they need to go at least 3-1 in these next four games. Going 2-2 just won’t cut it. This team is already getting desperate to make up ground and going .500 against losing teams isn’t going to help. Sadly for the Lakers, hovering around .500 is going to be their main goal until Kobe, Blake and Nash (if he ever does play again) return. The team doesn’t have the talent and certainly doesn’t have the interior defense to be a winning team without their best players. Although there will be a lot more basketball to play, these next four games could determine which direction the Lakers season will go.