Lakers Need Focus as Games Get Tougher

Tonight, it’s the entertaining New York Knicks. Over the next 10 days it is the streaking Miami Heat, potential contenders in Orlando and New Orleans, and then the big Christmas showdown with Boston.

If the Lakers players sleepwalk through the next two weeks like they did the last two, the team will pile up losses to go with the criticism they have gotten. So, will a string of better teams get the Lakers focused on better execution?

“I don’t know,” said coach Phil Jackson. “I guess we’ll find out together.”

The team is just a quarter of the way through the season, so nobody in their right mind is expecting playoff-quality basketball now. But “right mind” does not always include fans, who have seen spotty play against some spotty teams, and they are concerned.

Pau Gasol was among a number of players who said the team does need better execution, and that has to start tonight against the Knicks.

“The are a challenge and I think they are playing really well right now,” Gasol said. “That’s a game we need to focus on, then the road trip with Orlando and New Orleans, then we come back and play Boston. We’ll see about that one. We just need to go out there ever night and continue to grow, that is the challenge.”

The challenge tonight will be getting back in transition defense as the run-and-gun Knicks come to town coach by old Jackson nemesis Mike D’Antoni. Last night against Phoenix the Knicks jacked up a crazy 37 three-point shots, a lot of those in transition.

The Lakers have huge size advantage — the Knicks start nobody taller than 6-9 Al Harrington, while Los Angeles has two long seven footers. The Lakers should be able to pound the ball inside, dominate the boards, get offensive rebounds and control the game.

They should. If they are focused.

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