When the World Champion Los Angeles Lakers come to town, everything is a little bit different at the Air Canada Centre.
The crowd is louder and more into the proceedings. There are way more fans of the opponent than usual and every movement by Kobe Bryant is watched in awe by the purple and gold dotted crowd.
There is no hockey equivalent to a Lakers game at the ACC. Even Sidney Crosby doesn’t provoke this kind of a buzz.
The Lakers carry themselves different than other teams Down early, they don’t care, they know there’s a lot of time to go. While other coaches call timeouts like crazy, Phil Jackson calmly sits and waits, calling time only on rare occasions.
The Lakers are bigger and stronger than almost all opponents and have Bryant, the closest thing we have seen to Michael Jordan, to bail them out when things look bleak. Against the Raptors on Sunday, the points in the paint were 32-16 for Los Angeles at the half.
L.A. has the ultimate luxury. Let Bryant carve opponents, or let the NBA’s biggest group of forward/centres, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum or Ron Artest go to work.
Bynum and Gasol are bigger and quicker than most centres, Artest, along with Lebron James, is the biggest small forward around and Odom has height, athleticism and speed going for him.
If there is one annoying thing about the Lakers and the NBA in general, it is the fact that the team almost always gets the benefit of the doubt from officials. Even benchwarmers like Luke Walton get more leeway on bang-bang plays than do players on other teams. That’s why a charging call on Bryant late in the first half was met by gasps from those on hand. Usually the call would have went the other way.
With Bynum back in the lineup, the champs are back to full-strength and look as scary as ever. The Raptors won’t see them again until next season.