Have Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard Finally Unlocked Key to LA Lakers Potential?

How it is now is how it always should have been for Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and the Los Angeles Lakers.

They fell as far as eight games under .500 after a tactical breakdown against the Memphis Grizzlies left the Lakers battered and seemingly hopeless. They weren't going to contend for a playoff spot, let alone a title. They were headed for the lottery.

Then a slight turnaround ensued, followed by a bold augury made by the Black Mamba himself, one that guaranteed the Lakers were headed for the postseason. And then, there was more winning.

Since that collapse in Memphis, Los Angeles is 16-6 and is now a half-game ahead of the Utah Jazz for the Western Conference's final playoff spot. It hasn't always been pretty, but the Lakers (finally) appear postseason-bound; they seem headed in the right direction.

Which begs the question: What changed?

Looking at how the boys in purple and gold are still faring, no major tactical adjustments have been employed. Pau Gasol is still on the bench, the Lakers are among the top eight in offensive efficiency and still dwell near the bottom (19th) in defensive efficiency.

To put that in perspective, at eight games under .500, Los Angeles ranked sixth in offensive efficiency and 20th on the defensive side of the ball. Hardly anything, at least worthy of stopping the presses, has changed in that regard.

Then what exactly? Something had to have changed. Save for the conspiracy theorists lurking behind the Hollywood sign, there's no way we're believing opponents are just laying down and allowing the Lakers to amble their way to victory.

Something has happened. This isn't luck. A stellar defensive performance against the Chicago Bulls isn't luck. Fighting back from 25 points down against the New Orleans Hornets isn't a mere happenstance. Los Angeles' season cannot be defined by a series of inexplicable coincidences.

And we're rig...

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