The title of Charles Barkley’s 2002 book is “I May Be Wrong, but I Doubt It.” And for good reason, too: The TNT studio analyst has been proclaiming non-stop that the Denver Nuggets can beat the Lakers and that fans and the team should not sleep on them. I was one of them. I was sure the Lakers would come out and win Game 5 at home at Staples and garner themselves some much needed rest before facing Oklahoma City. Instead, the Lakers laid a massive egg.
Sir Charles? I will never doubt you again.
So now the Lakers have to travel back to Denver and battle the Nuggets in Game 6 in what is likely to be a battle royal. There is absolutely no guarantee the Lakers can beat them and I’d put the likelihood of this going to a Game 7 at 80 percent.
The Nuggets can sense weakness in the form of complacency and lack of effort and are going in for the kill. They are playing with energy and hustle. Shots are falling.
They are doing everything the Lakers are not.
Game 5 was for me a flashback to the entitled attitude the Lakers brought with them into last year’s playoffs where they automatically assumed they could flip a switch and easily beat the New Orleans Hornets.
Chris Paul had a thing or two to say about that, and now it is very likely that the Los Angeles team advancing to the next round of the playoffs could be the one led by Chris Paul and not Kobe Bryant.
At least the Clippers are giving it their all every night.
What more is there to say really about Andrew Bynum’s stupid “close-out games are kinda easy” comment that hasn’t already been said? It is the number one topic of conversation among Laker fans right now.
But, it’s really just a way for fans to vent because it increasingly feels like the team's title hopes are being held hostage (intentionally or not) by the mercurial whims of its All Star center. Will he show up to the arena on time? Will he play lock down defense? Will he hustle on transition? Will he get frustrated by the double and triple teams?
Hey Andrew – you wanted to be the man. Double and triple teams come with the territory. Ask Kobe.
Overlooked in all the Bynum brouhaha is this: Mike Brown has been flat out-coached by George Karl. And it was never more evident than in Game 5. After taking the temperature of the series' first games, George Karl had a plan. He used his timeouts judiciously, rotated guys in perfectly to exploit match ups, exposing (as if we didn’t already know) the Lakers thin bench and Brown had no answer for it.
Wait a minute. I thought Brown’s calling card was his defensive acumen. Is there no other option than Steve Blake on Andre Miller? Miller has been abusing him. This is where it would have been nice to have Ron Artest. Where were the adjustments?
Meanwhile JaVale McGee is just schooling Bynum. This is a guy who actually tried to block a shot from up through the net of the basket! And yet he continued to bring it for the whole game. Turns out Mr. McGee will be a free agent this summer. Hmmm. Nothing motivates as much as the next contract.
The ice cold shooting from the perimeter is killing the Lakers and the Nuggets know it. That’s why they are packing the paint. But I always say, the hot shooting hand comes and goes. The antidote for that is to redouble your defensive efforts and hustle. And voila, the Lakers finally started to do it in the fourth and pulled within 1 point.
That’s the effort that is needed the entire game. The Lakers are capable of this. They did it in Game 1. It’s mind-boggling that they didn’t do it in Game 5 on their home court with the home crowd.
I don’t know what it is going to take to motivate this Lakers squad. Being in the Playoffs and chasing a championship doesn’t seem like enough.
Ultimately, the lackluster effort, while providing plenty of fodder for the media, really boils down to this: It is supremely insulting to the fans. Dr. Buss may sign your check, but it is the fans who really pay the bills. Kobe knows that. It’s why late in the fourth, he tried to drag his team over the finish line with four spectacular three pointers to pull the Lakers to within striking distance. But the Lakers couldn’t finish and let it slip away.
And if they don’t get serious immediately, they could let this series slip away too.