Who’s next for Lakers?

Sooner or later, the rest of the NBA had better realize that the three-time defending champion Los Angles Lakers are only biding their time.

Yes, the Lakers don’t have the best record in the league and are at the bottom of the postseason standings.

However, the Lakers are playing better despite a couple of tough road games. Kobe Bryant is playing like well, Kobe Bryant. Shaquille O’Neal is literally rounding into form. He finally is getting into game shape.

The Lakers’ supporting cast is playing adequately and coach Phil Jackson is ready to take his squad into the playoffs one more time.

The only thing that can halt the Lakers from winning their fourth consecutive title is the Lakers.

Which NBA team would want to draw Los Angeles in the first round?

Look at the top three clubs in the Western Conference.

Dallas continues to enjoy the best record in the league. They run and gun and lead the NBA in scoring at just over 102 points per game.

The Mavericks’ big three of Steve Nash, Michael Finley and Dirk Nowitzki combine for 62 points per game.

However, Dallas still is not made for the playoffs. They haven’t proved that they can win a half-court battle for 48 minutes. Worst yet, the Mavericks are 13th in the league in yielding 99 points per contest.

That is actually an improvement from last season.

Still though, Dallas can’t win in the playoffs with the same offensive philosophy. Offense puts fans in the stands. Defense wins championships.

Sacramento is next.

In just about every big Lakers/Kings game, Los Angeles always seems to prevail.

The biggest problem for the Kings is O’Neal, whom they still have no answer for.

It doesn’t matter if Vlade Divac, Chris Webber, Keon Clark and Scott Pollard patrol the middle, O’Neal will still explode.

Plus, the Lakers always seem to get the Kings to play their tempo of game, which is a slow half-court defensive minded style.

O’Neal and Bryant seem to thrive in this mode while the Kings never seem to hit a big shot when it counts.

San Antonio poses the biggest challenge for the Lakers. The Spurs are third in the NBA in field goal defense (89.7 points per game) and have size inside. Plus, Tim Duncan is a bad matchup for any Lakers’ forward.

The problem for the Spurs comes down to scoring enough and hitting big shots down the stretch.

San Antonio is only 16th in offense, averaging 94.7 points per outing.

In addition, the last time the two teams met in the playoffs, in 2001, the Lakers swept San Antonio in four crushing wins.

In the end, the Lakers despite a less than stellar record, are still a solid lock for the NBA title.


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