The Lakers biggest challenge

Sometimes, it really does feel like the Lakers just flip a switch. Take tonight’s game for example. Sacramento is a decent team. In a couple of years I think they might be a very good team with some of the young guys Geoff Petrie and his staff have shrewdly assembled through the draft and free agency. But they really aren’t on the Lakers level at all yet.

So the Lakers toy with them for a half, then go on 12-0 run midway through the third quarter to break the game open 88-71.

With 44 seconds remaining in the third, Phil Jackson takes Kobe Bryant out of the game and you’re thinking it’s possible Kobe might even sit the rest of the game with the lead feeling rather comfortable.

But Sacramento, being a team full of young guys who like their coach and continue to play hard for him, keeps its energy up and whittles that lead all the way down to 105-101 with 6:17 to go.

The Lakers call timeout, and Phil Jackson brings the starters back in to close things out. Just like that the Lakers go on a 9-0 run to stretch the lead back to 114-101 and the crisis has been averted.

Seriously, sometimes it feels like they just flip a switch. Like Mariano Rivera has come in from the bullpen to start the 9th inning.

All of which is good and bad.

Good, because the Lakers seem to have the ability to completely dictate the game when they want to and more importantly know how to flip that switch any time they need to.

Bad, because even Mariano Rivera blows a save every once in a while and you don’t want to get in the habit of relying on that close-out ability to win games.

Said Kobe Bryant after the game:

“I’m not happy with this win. I felt like we didn’t particularly get better tonight,” Bryant said. “We could’ve played much more solid defensively.”

Pau Gasol seemed to agree.

“I think we could have played a lot better, with more consistency,” Gasol said. “Maintaining the focus for 48 minutes, that’s the biggest challenge we are going to face most of the games.

“We’re playing pretty well and (winning) pretty easily. We get good leads earl on in the game and tend to relax a little early. We’re letting teams back in the game and we’re letting teams just play their style and not trying to get out of their system. We still win, but we should leave this place with a better feeling.”

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