The Truths and the Problems: The Lakers’ Run
A few weeks ago, the Los Angeles Lakers were said to miss the playoffs for the 2nd time in Kobe Bryant’s majestic career. The Black Mamba almost carried his team by himself into the playoffs. Until he got injured and was ruled to be out for the remaining of the season. Poof! There goes the Lakers’ chance of reaching the postseason. There goes Kobe’s chance of challenging LeBron James and company for his 6th ring. And more importantly, there goes the Lakers’ undisputed leader who carried them all season long when nobody is playing well. Fortunately for them, they still managed to pull off a 5-game winning streak to finish the regular season and virtually steal the 7th seed from the Houston Rockets. Good news is they avoided facing the Oklahoma City Thunders in the first round. Bad news is: they got another deep and experienced team in the San Antonio Spurs.
And as the Lakers head onto Game 2 after being literally played by the aging Spurs, questions are rising up whether the Lakers really have what it takes challenge the Spurs and make this a good series. The truth is: the Lakers have the pieces to challenge any team for that matter, in any series. They got Steve Nash, one of the elite guards around. They got Dwight Howard who is a monster on the boards.
They also got their defensive specialist in Metta World Peace. The problem is: even with Kobe orchestrating the Lakers’ offense, the rest of the team seems to be lost and act like that they don’t know what to do. Laker fans are blaming Mike D’ Antoni for not utilizing Pau Gasol’s abilities. The truth is: Pau Gasol has been playing well since Kobe went out for good. The truth is: Pau and Dwight have taken over since the Black Mamba went down. The problem is: nobody outside of Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard has been playing well. In addition to that, Nash’s return from his nagging injury didn’t practically help the Lakers in Game 1 against the Spurs. With due respect to Nash, his back up and namesake, Steve Blake has stepped up on the gas during Nash’s absence, practically leading the Lakers’ offense in their 5-game run to finish the season. The truth is: the Lakers can beat the Spurs. The truth is: the Lakers did beat the Spurs before the regular season ended. The problem is: they probably forgot how they did it.
The Lakers are heading into Game 2 trailing 0-1 in the best of 7 series. The Spurs cannot be beaten easily on their homecourt but if you are the Lakers, you wouldn’t want to go home thinking how to come back from a 0-2 deficit considering the mere fact the Spurs are capable of sweeping the Lakers out of the playoffs. Give credit to the Spurs’ intensity and experience.
Give credit to Tim Duncan and Tony Parker for showing their leadership and keeping their composure. And, give credit to the Spurs for finishing the season as the 2nd seed. But the Lakers are talented. They know that. We all know that. And if you are the Lakers, you surely don’t want to use Kobe’s absence for your embarrassing performance in the playoffs. The Lakers surely miss Kobe’s leadership but, they have to keep moving. They have to keep playing better offense and set the tone on the defensive end. They have to trust their Twin Towers in Pau and Dwight. They have to play as a team if they intend to make a deep run into the postseason.
Either way, the Lakers will have and will need to win Game 3 and 4 but first, they have to make sure that they win Game 2. It’s the only way they can survive a series against these Spurs. And if you are the Lakers, you surely don’t want to be the laughingstock of everyone else in the league considering the mere fact that they had already celebrated their championship even before the season began. Pressure? With Kobe nowhere on the court, pressure’s on Dwight now. He has to be smart. He has to be more matured. And more importantly, he has to play the Lakers brand of basketball if he intends to make his first season with the Lakers, a memorable one. After all, this is the reason why the Lakers acquired Dwight Howard.
The Lakers front office believes that Dwight will carry the load in case the Black Mamba went out. The truth is: Dwight Howard is leading the Lakers. The problem is: the rest of the Lakers are not following Superman’s lead. And that might cost the Lakers’ survival in the postseason.