I'm going to say what no one wants to hear -- the LA Lakers are going to win a lot of games in the playoffs this year (unless something crazy happens). They are still the cream of the Western Conference, and if they do make it out of there, they'll be battle hardened enough to be in good position to defend their title.
For whatever reason, it has become 'de rigueur' it bash the lakers. ESPN (essentially should be changed to the Farve/Jeter/Tiger/Kobe and LeBron network) has been writing about this exact topic for days now (many salvos fired by John Hollinger; for those not in the know, he's who David Locke wishes to be). The Blogs have been ablaze, and if I was still active on twitter, I'm sure many people would be talking about the Lakers there too.
Sadly, they aren't dead.
They have not been playing well lately. They came off of a poor road trip (for them). People are suggesting that they aren't so great. Others are wildly claiming that they are beatable. They are still the defending champs, of not just this conference, but the entire NBA as well. They still have way more talent than is honestly possible. And nothing motivates a team to come together and start hammering teams like an extensive media campaign doubting them.
Sure, Bynum is barely more seaworthy than S.S.Oden (a synonym for the Titanic), but the Lakers are actually better without him. Sure, they are struggling now, but nothing is more dangerous than a motivated Kobe out to prove the 'haters' wrong.
The road back to everyone loving the Lakers starts tonight with them getting a shot at the improved Jazz in LA-LA Land. The momentum the Lakers needs will start tonight with a good showing against a team that they've routinely owned over the last few seasons (if not 3 of the last 4 decades). I hate the Lakers with all of my heart. I hate them so much that aside from the Jazz, the team I actively root for to win the title every year becomes the Boston Celtics -- just to spurn the Lakers.
I really detest them to the point that I may, myself, be guilty of being a 'hater'.
So it hurts that much more to write this. The Lakers know the playoffs don't start in the middle of March and early April. Right now there are a lot of teams out west playing amazing ball (the Spurs, Portland, Phoenix and our Jazz). Unfortunately, no one wins the title based on middle of the season hot streaks.
I'd love for the Jazz to win tonight, my heart wants it so much; but my mind, and accuscore's projection, say no. There is hardly ever a guranteed win against the Lakers, even if the Jazz are on fire and at home playing an injured Lakers squad. We should know this from past history: getting to OT against LA when Kobe has fouled out, only for Sasha to hit a game winner; playing on the road and up by a ton, only to have Kobe will his team to victory; or even from just earlier this season when the Jazz were all but given a W in the win column before the game against the Lakers started. (only for the Jazz to be humiliated at home by scoring single digits in the final quarter)
The Lakers are like Jason, from all those Friday the 13th movies, to the Jazz. Even when they are down, we should never call LA out. Especially not tonight (*cough* trap game *cough*). We've read all over the net that LA is playing poorly. LA has read about it too. They are going to come out and try to go all Mola Ram on us.
After all, as a Jazz fan we know two things about the Lakers: 1) They win titles, 2) They are pretty good at ripping our hearts out.
The third thing should be to never take them lightly. Hope the Jazz players don't, starting tonight.