The Lakers are down 108-105 with 10 seconds left in their Jan. 9 game against the Spurs.
Guarded by Kawhi Leonard, Kobe Bryant fires a shot. The ball caroms off the rim and eventually lands in the hands of Earl Clark, who attempts the final shot as the buzzer ends the game. Clark also misses, and the loss reminds everyone of a game that was so close yet so far.
The Lakers had come back from a deficit of 19 points in the fourth quarter, but it was not enough to silence the critics that see this season as a disappointment after the following loss against Oklahoma City.
But what the critics fail to see is the true essence of the Lakers who have a history of overcoming challenges that other teams can’t.
Ten years ago, under the command of Phil Jackson, the Lakers started the 2002-03 season with a record of 11-19. Many swore the Lakers would miss the playoffs. They were wrong and the Lakers adjusted to win 39 of their next 52 games to make a legitimate run for the championship.
Those who face the Lakers themselves know the threat they represent in the NBA. Former Laker and now rival, Luke Walton, said in an interview with the LA Times, “One thing I learned from playing here: Never doubt Kobe Bryant. They obviously have themselves in a pretty big hole, but I still wouldn't be surprised if they figured things out and made a late-season run to get into the playoffs."
Manu Ginobili of the Spurs said, “There is no doubt they will play well and they will be favorites to win the championship like they always are.”
There is a reminder that the Lakers’ most impressive victory runs had taken part in the late stages of the regular season. In the last two months of the 1997-98 season the Lakers had a 22-3 run. In the 2007-08 season the Lakers saw a 22-5 run starting in February thanks to the arrival of Pau Gasol.
Head coach Mike D’Antoni said their season would start last Sunday before the Lakers’ victory against the Cavaliers, who defeated the Lakers earlier in the season. That victory resets their winning streak to one game, but if there is one team in the NBA with the strength and will to get out of a hole and go on for the necessary winning spree against the most challenging teams in the league, that team is called the Los Angeles Lakers.
This week the Lakers face the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday before taking on the reigning champions on Thursday in one of the most anticipated matches of the year. If the Lakers can beat the Miami Heat, they will make a turn for the better almost immediately.
The die has been rolled and the Lakers odds’ are not on their side. But this much is true: the final buzzer hasn’t sounded on the purple and gold’s season.
You can follow Octavio Raygoza on Twitter at @Olraygoza.