Wednesday, May 13, 2009
With the Lakers 118-78 point win last night to give them a 3-2 lead on the Rockets in the series, L.A. is back in control. The Lakers were the favorite by many throughout the season and going into the playoffs were widely considered the team to beat. Right now I question whether the Lakers are really as good as everyone thinks they are. I am skeptical that they can even make the NBA Finals at this point.
I will admit there is a lot to like about this Lakers team. They have the best coach in the league in Phil Jackson. They have one of the league's best players in Kobe Bryant. They have a budding young star in center Andrew Bynum. They have two other second-tier stars in Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom and a solid point guard in Derek Fisher. The Lakers also have a fairly strong bench of solid role players. L.A. had the NBA's second best record and was tops in the tougher Western Conference. The Lakers have plenty of experience, losing in the Finals last year and Kobe and Fisher have won championships in the past. Despite all of that I don't think this is a championship caliber team. For one major reason they don't always play like a team.
I think they will fall to the Nuggets in the Conference Finals for that reason. To often the L.A. Lakers become the Kobe show and he takes over the game. I just don't think that mentality will work against a Denver team that has been playing the best basketball they've ever played. With the addition of Chauncey Billups the Nuggets have been playing together as a team and have been leaving their opponents in the rear-view mirror. I think the same thing could happen during a 7 game series. The Lakers can be taken out of their element if you stop Kobe. And right now Kobe is pressing more than usual because of deficiencies in their interior game. Bynum hasn't been the same since coming back from his injury and that has made the Lakers a bit soft inside. The Rockets exploited this weakness and the team's reliance on Kobe in game 4 by handing L.A. an embarrassing loss. They did this without their two star players Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming. Houston did it by playing with a team first mentality and it showed a weak spot in the Lakers game plan. I think that the Nuggets style will expand on that weakness and knock the Lakers out of the playoffs. The Lakers are a great team and fun to watch, but I don't think they have what it takes to win the title.