Poll results show fan satisfaction regarding Lakers play entering West finals
It's been a long week for Lakers fans, figuring out how to pass the time before the team's West finals matchup starting Monday against the Phoenix Suns. Sure, there have been plenty of things to keep them occupied, such as Boston's semifinals upset over Cleveland, the speculation over LeBron James' future and many days worth of pre-series analysis. But it's fair to say that fans are ready for this series to start, especially with the Lakers having a week to prepare.
Even if this day couldn't come soon enough for Lakers fans, 57% of them in an unscientific poll argue that the time off will prove well worth the wait. With the Lakers absorbing a number of injuries, including Kobe Bryant's sore right knee, Andrew Bynum's lateral meniscus in his right knee, Lamar Odom's injured left shoulder, Ron Artest's sprained left thumb and Shannon Brown's sprained right thumb, the majority of poll respondents deemed it more important for the team to have the weeklong span between games to help heal those injuries than for fans to get a quick start to West finals. As for the possibility that such a long time off will hurt the Lakers' momentum? Only 7% expressed such concern.
In fact, poll respondents seem to feel generally satisfied with how things are going. Only 12% say they believe the Suns will pull off an upset, 45% predict the Lakers will take the series in five games and 33% think it will take six games to advance.
There were a variety of reasons why respondents said they feel so optimistic with the Lakers' six-game winning streak, including Bryant's improved health, Pau Gasol's consistency (dropping at least 20 points in four of the last six games), better team chemistry and the Utah Jazz just not having the capability to compete against the Lakers. About 53% of respondents argued that all those factors have created a perfect storm for the Lakers, and they see no reason why the team can't continue that success.
With the Lakers' inside presence, Bryant's play and Phil Jackson's coaching and experience, 72% of respondents said those factors will prove to be too much for the Suns to handle. That doesn't mean these fans aren't concerned about the series, though. With Bynum recently reporting increased swelling in the torn cartilage in his right knee, 51% of those responding to the poll pin the Lakers center as the player who needs to improve the most, particularly after coming off a scoreless Game 3 performance against Utah and a six-point effort in Game 4. Also, 41.8% of respondents say they're worried that the Suns' bench provides more depth, serving as a contrast to the Lakers' inconsistent reserve unit.
But the concerns, most of the respondents say, won't make or break the team's chances to get to the NBA Finals. And if these fans are correct, the Lakers will be competing for their 16th title fairly soon.
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: Lakers forward Ron Artest, left, tries to steal the ball away from center D.J. Mbenga during a team practice session at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo on Wednesday. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times