In the first three and a half months of the season, the Lakers had bouts of indifferent defense, saw their thin bench exposed too often for comfort and exercised patience with Ron Artest's shooting woes. There were also concerns about their stars, with Kobe Bryant working through knee issues and Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom carrying a heavy load while waiting for Andrew Bynum to return from knee surgery. Los Angeles finished the pre-All-Star break schedule with its third losing streak of at least three games this season, the last defeat coming at Cleveland, the team with the NBA's worst record.
Then the break was over and the switch was flipped -- it has looked nearly that simple for the two-time defending champions. The Lakers have won seven in a row, capped by Sunday's dismantling of the league-leading Spurs in San Antonio.
Not surprisingly, then, the Lakers are the new leaders in the Power Rankings. But maintaining the top spot won't be easy as L.A. visits Atlanta, Miami and Dallas this week before returning home for next Monday's game against Orlando.
(All stats and records are through March 7.)
NBA Power Rankings