Since the Lakers lost three straight games for the first time since acquiring Pau Gasol in February of 2008, the players and coach Phil Jackson knew they’d have to answer a round of “What’s wrong” questions when arriving back in Los Angeles.
Yet after L.A.’s 96-94 loss in Orlando on Sunday afternoon, Kobe Bryant may have already summed things up.
“We didn’t win the game but I saw what I wanted to see,” he said of a game he was within an inch of tying with a late jumper. “If we play with this type of effort, it will be hard for a team to beat us four times in a series. Here we competed and we have to take this mindset and this attitude and push it forward to the rest of the season.”
Bryant echoed some of those same sentiments after Monday’s practice, adding that sometimes during the regular season in particular, the team’s issue is more mental than physical.
“We’re very talented and we know what we’re capable of doing,” he explained. “Sometimes you don’t believe you can lose until it actually happens. It sneaks up on you, and that’s something that we can’t allow to happen.”
Part of that sneaking up has to do with many of L.A.’s opponents, especially on the road, giving the defending champions their best shot.
“It’s not surprising that you’re the defending world champions, you’re the Lakers, it’s going to be higher intensity, higher pressure,” said Derek Fisher. “You’re going to have sell outs, which is (not always the case) before we get there … It’s just part of it.”
That’s not to say that the Lakers wouldn’t like to improve, especially when it comes to simple execution.
“The ball has to move more,” said Pau Gasol of L.A.’s offense. “That’s going to give us a better rhythm, better looks, easier shots.”
“We just have to execute better, knock down shots,” added Bryant. “We’re getting shots that we want, really good looks, they’re (just not) falling for us.”
The Lakers are confident that the final 18 games will provide ample opportunity to ramp things up leading into the playoffs.
“We just have to get it together on both ends of the floor,” said the Spaniard. “With this team, the players that we have here and the coaching staff, we shouldn’t lose.”
The team’s first chance to show with a result what they know in their heads they can do comes Tuesday against the Toronto Raptors at STAPLES Center.