|Switching to coaching with opera singing has been huge for D'Antoni. (Getty Images)|
Two wins in a row.
After losing six of their previous seven games, the Los Angeles Lakers have won back-to-back games and the primary reason is they're finally getting some supporting help. The caliber of opponent has also been a big reason for the mini win streak, but winning these types of games definitely hasn't been any type of guaranteed victory for the Lakers this season.
During these two successive victories, the Lakers have relied on quality games from their two remaining stars (Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard) and quality performances at least three role players. In defeating the Washington Wizards Friday night, the Lakers got a 30-point effort from Kobe (yes, he took an unconscionable 29 shots but he got to the free-throw line 13 times) and a 12-point, 14-rebound, four-block night from Dwight.
The Lakers also saw very solid games from Metta World Peace (13 points and six rebounds) and Devin Ebanks (eight points, five rebounds, and really good defense). They got a spectacular effort from Jodie Meeks off the bench with 24 points on 14 shots, including four made 3-pointers.
This seems to be the formula for the Lakers right now without Pau Gasol, Steve Nashand Steve Blake. They need their stars to be stars, their defense to be solid, and their role players to fill their role. That's what happened against the Philadelphia 76ers Sunday night when the Lakers pulled out the 111-98 victory.
Bryant was deadlier and more efficient than his previous game with 34 points on 21 shots. Howard filled up the stat sheet with 17 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, three steals, and two blocks. The Lakers also received big efforts from World Peace (19 points, 16 rebounds) and Darius Morris (15 points off the bench).
Turner: "I don't know if [Duhon] hit 4 three's since his freshman year at Duke".#sixers— Derek Bodner (@derekbodner) December 17, 2012
In the past two games, the Lakers have had Dwight Howard on the court for 74 of the 96 available minutes. In those 74 minutes, the team's defensive rating has been 96.3. That's a big difference from the 102.1 the Lakers have posted all season (101.7 with Dwight on the floor).
All of this sounds like basic stuff for the Lakers to do in order to win games, but they've had to go back to the basics after a terrible stretch of basketball that had people joking about whether they would actually make the playoffs. In fact, after the first quarter of the season ended, the Lakers were sitting with the 12th-best record in the Western Conference.
Now Los Angeles has to worry about the Charlotte Bobcats, and when's the last time you've ever said that? Hell, have you ever said that?
The Lakers aren't fixed by any means. Pau and Nash could be back in the next week or two and the team is still three games under .500 after 25 games this season. Kobe Bryant is still holding up some incredible scoring with career best efficiency and Dwight Howard is starting to round into more of the player we've known him to be.
But as the schedule gets tougher for them, they'll have to prove their worth, their production and their ability to make their teammates better in their respective roles against stronger competition.
It's only two wins in a row, but for the Lakers, it probably feels like a dozen right now.