Said Derek Fisher after Sunday's 102-84 win over the Hornets at Staples:
"As you move through a season, particularly for a team that has the experience we have, there are ebbs and flows in a season you embrace. You understand there are certain things that are just part an NBA season. When you're on that high and things are going good, it's important to maximize it and ride it out. I think that's what we've done. We haven't all of a sudden said it's important to us now. As we started to play good right after the break, we found some things that we could kind of hang our hat on, and stuck with it.
It's been good for us."
To say the least. The win was L.A.'s 15 in 16 games since the All-Star break, a run dramatically changing their prospective playoff future in ways practical (they're far more likely to play more home games) and psychological. I noted a couple weeks ago how the team finally found some championship swagger, but what should really encourage the faithful is their reaction to all this winning. While it's obvious guys feel good about themselves (as they should), there isn't much horn tooting in the home locker room.
"I think we have our spurts where we play very well," Pau Gasol said. "We have our times that we don't play as well, and still manage to win."
Fisher said the team still has another level or two, they can and will need to reach chasing their Threepeat. Arguing against their ability to do it is tough, because it doesn't feel like the Lakers are playing to peak capacity. Their offense hasn't been artificially goosed by unsustainable outside shooting, as it was at the start of the season. Kobe Bryant has been very good generally, but also tossed out some clunkers amidst all the winning. The bench remains spotty. Guys like Ron Artest and Andrew Bynum have elevated their play and defensively the team is much more consistent, but there are still areas of growth available. Exactly how much better they can get is hard to quantify, and playing even at this level for another 30-plus games will be very difficult, but the idea the Lakers might somehow be peaking too early is off base.
They're in a very good place, but aren't burning excess fuel to stay there. Instead, as Kobe illustrates below (echoed in videos below by Gasol and Phil Jackson), they're still looking at the checklist for things to improve.
Click below the jump for moving pictures from Jackson, Gasol, Bynum, and Fisher.
Jackson, on the game, the bench, Kobe's scoring, and a potential first round matchup with the Hornets:
Fisher, on the team's solid play since the All-Star break:
More from Fisher, on the difficulty of overcoming tough stretches. It's not just fans or media who get concerned. "We feel it. A lot of times, it's something that's palpable. That you can feel in our locker room, and at practice or at different points, where we feel like things aren't right. They just aren't settled... But I think the experience of our coaching staff and the experience of a lot of our players allows us to continue to question each other, push each other, continue to push to what is "perfection," or your best, but know that you might not get there. But if you put forth the effort, things will kind of turn around. That's what we've done."
Bynum, on playing with five fouls, and the matchup with New Orleans:
Gasol, on the team's reaction to winning, and their success against the Hornets:
Gasol, on team goals moving forward: