It feels like déjà vu, doesn’t it?
The Los Angeles Lakers are coming off a feel good win that few expected, and they head up to play the Golden State Warriors on the second night of a back-to-back. The Lakers were without Kobe Bryant and their top three point guards, but somehow, the team banded together and earned an unlikely win on Friday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves. The very next night, the Lakers face the hostile crowd in Oakland.
The Lakers have been here before.
On opening night, the Lakers shocked the world by beating the Clippers. Then, they took a flight to Oakland, and no one was shocked at what transpired. Klay Thompson put up an inspired 38 points, and the Lakers were never even competitive.
With Bryant going down earlier in the week, Friday night felt like the start of a new season. Saturday is the first back-to-back, and it mirrors how the actual season started. Filled with the joy of proving doubters wrong, a late flight to Oakland flowed into a game against the Warriors.
This time, however, the Lakers are a bit more comfortable in their skins.
Nick Young has adjusted to a bench role, Xavier Henry is playing consistent minutes and Pau Gasol has finally embraced his place in the offense. These underdogs are having fun and are fun to watch.
To repeat that the Lakers are underdogs on a nightly basis may grow tiresome, but they are not expected to win Saturday night. The individuals are all players who were left for dead and/or forgotten.
The only “star” on this team is Pau Gasol, and even Lakers fans were ready to ship him out of town only one week earlier. If nothing else, Bryant’s six-game cameo immensely helped the Lakers by turning a passive Gasol going through the motions into an active and aggressive player embracing his reality.
Amazing as it may be to consider, the Kobe-less Lakers had a winning record without Gasol playing even average basketball.
On Friday, Gasol was two assists shy of a triple-double, and he even hit a three. The applause raining down on the Spaniard was reminiscent of a scene from Gladiator. For most of the season, the Los Angeles crowd has treated Gasol like a talent-less contestant on “The Gong Show.”
Regardless of what happens on Saturday, the next six weeks will be fun. This team will win a few, lose a few and continue to play for the name on the front of the jersey rather than the back. These Lakers play as a team, and the city cannot help but respect the effort and attitude this undermanned Lakers team exhibits in the face of long odds.
The Lakers next face long odds on Saturday at 7:30 pm PST.