Maybe not with a bullet, but they're No. 1
Given their current circumstances, it's hard to figure on it lasting all that long, but this morning at least, the Lakers wake up as the best team in the Western Conference, courtesy of a 123-121 OT win over the Sonics in Seattle Monday night. It was hardly easy, and if the game was any indication of what life without Andrew Bynum is going to look like, folks might want to make sure their home defibrillator is charged and encourage Kobe to get all the rest he can between games.
The former because for the second night in a row, the Lakers found themselves in a close game against a less than spectacular opponent, and the latter because for one night at least, the L.A. offense was W.K.O.B.E. Radio: All Kobe, All the Time. 48 points on 21-44 from the floor, including huge points down the stretch and the game winner in OT, a patented Kobe pull up jumper from 18 feet. It was a night where 24 felt he needed to be more assertive, considering the mood of the squad. It was a night of offense as the Sonics attack, not exactly robust of late, found room to roam on the Lakers D- particularly Nick Collison (24/18) inside.
The young Sonics did their best to keep up with Kobe, but the box shows it just wasn't enough. Kobe was just too much... though if this is the only way for the Lakers to win in Bynum's absence, it's going to be tough going for 24 for the next two months. It 's a matter of holding down the fort until a healthy Bynum can return, which (unfortunately for their rivals) could be in enough time for the Lakers to return to their form of, well, about three days ago. Meanwhile, speculation about everything from how the team will fare to how it will impact the previously dormant "Kobe Situation" begins.
That, and where exactly the Lakers, desperately short on the front line, might find a big to tide them over (Webber? Brown? Mbenga? Other?). Webber says he'll be back soon... but not with the Pistons. Hmmm....
Not all the news is bad. Marc Stein's Power Rankings, for example, remind fans the Lakers do have some depth.