L.A. Lakers: Can Kobe Bryant & Pau Gasol Still Lead This Team to the NBA Finals?

I knew Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant had regained his full range of motion after watching him operate in their recent bout against the Boston Celtics.

Bryant received the ball late in the 4th quarter with Ray Allen defending him, and he proceeded to cross Allen up with a series of moves that led to a game-clinching jumper from about 15 feet.

The move was vintage Bryant and further evidence that his gimpy knee may finally be near 100 percent.

With the exception of Matt Barnes and Theo Ratliff, most of Bryant's teammates—including Andrew Bynum—are also healthy, although it's hard to tell by their performance on the court.

The Lakers finished their seven-game road trip 4-3. They suffered their third loss at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers, a team the Lakers defeated by 55 points in their last meeting.

The loss at Cleveland was the low point of a season that has failed as a whole to live up to expectations.

Most observers considered the Lakers a lock to secure their 4th consecutive Western Conference title and a shot at a three-peat, but this team has yet to live up to that challenge.

At least so far.

Bryant and teammate Pau Gasol remain the best post-perimeter combination in the West—and arguably in the NBA—but are they game enough to lead this current model of LA back to the Finals?

Considering the turmoil surrounding the team, popular theory says Los Angeles needs to make some sort of a deal before the NBA's trading deadline to secure another trip to the Finals.

Sound familiar?

The Lakers seemingly hit this same type of stretch each season where they are written off and left for dead only to re-appear once the postseason begins, and the games really count.

I admit this year's version of the Lakers is even more frustrating than previous editions, but the team suffers from identical, re...

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