Through 17 games in the 2013-14 season the Los Angeles Lakers have displayed something that can’t be measured by any stat sheet because it does not have a numerical value.
What is it you ask?
The Lakers entered this season with fewer expectations and for the first time in many years were projected to miss the playoffs just as they did in the 2004-05 season after the team traded Shaquille O’Neal following the 2004 NBA Finals lost to the Detroit Pistons.
A few reasons for this change in thinking was due to a handful of factors such as Dwight Howard’s departure in the offseason as he signed with the Houston Rockets, Kobe Bryant’s left Achilles tendon tear, a whole new roster, and last but not least an aging core of Bryant, Pau Gasol, and a hobbled Steve Nash.
All of these factors were supposed to spell trouble for the Lakers, but so far these season they have proved otherwise. Los Angeles currently hold a 9-8 record and are only 1/2 a game behind the eighth place Phoenix (early season surprise), and just one game back of the sixth seed Denver Nuggets, who have a 9-6 record.
So how are the Lakers doing this?
Again its heart.
The Lakers displayed that ‘never say never’ attitude as they were down by 10 points in the fourth quarter of Friday’s game against the Pistons at the Palace of Auburn Hills. They could have easily packed it in when they were down by eight points with just over four minutes left in the game after cutting the deficit to two points.
So did they concede a loss?
What they did was buckle down and respond by finishing the game on a 14-3 run to capture a 106-102 win over the Pistons that was sealed by a charge taken by Nick Young on a drive by Josh Smith to the hoop in the waning seconds of the game. It was a play that embodied what these Lakers are all about, which is they will do whatever it takes to get a win with hard effort, heart, and determination.
“That felt good I did that for my team,” Young said. “I was in a situation I was forced to do anything to win.”
The fortitude of the team was also on display two nights prior when they squandered a 27-point lead over the Brooklyn Nets that lead to the game being tied at 92 with 2:19 left in the fourth quarter.
The tables had turned on Los Angeles, as they had also initially begun the fourth quarter with a six-point lead and now they were tied in the ball game that had all of the momentum on the side of the Nets.
What did the Lakers do?
They once again responded by finishing the game strong as they outscored Brooklyn 7-2 down the stretch that included a crucial steal of Paul Pierce‘s pass and dunk by Wesley Johnson to give Los Angeles a 94-92 lead that they never relinquished due to their stifling defensive effort in the final minutes of the game.
“I saw his eyes look over to where I was, but I think he didn’t see me,” Johnson said after the Wednesday’s 99-94 over the Nets. “So I played the passing line and took a gamble and got my hand it.”
The Lakers have proven that over the past week and a half as they have won five out of their last six games. They have shown that they are going to be a tough, scrappy, and hard working team even when their backs are against the wall. This team may not have the talent level of last year’s, but they got the right mind set and desire to get a win in any manner possible.
There is one goal with this team and that is to win the next game regardless of the opponent, because when it comes down to it the team that displays the most heart, dedication, and will to win will more often than not get the win.
So maybe on second thought, heart can be measured by a statistical, and you know what category that is?
Do you need a clue?
Well it is the only statistic that matters more than any point, assist, rebound, steal, blocks or even turnover total for that matter.
It’s the win column. Winning the next game is the mission for this team and with that type of attitude, the Lakers will continue to turn heads this season.
Photo Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times / November 22, 2013