By now we have heard and read about everyone’s plan on what the Los Angeles Lakers must do to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder. Well, they are all wrong. There is only one way the Lakers can beat the Thunder and it involves going back in time.
Talent wins games in the NBA, but heart wins titles. How much you are willing to give for the ultimate prize is what will determine whether you go down in history as a champion, or as a chump. Thus far, the Lakers have always gone out as champions, even in defeat. However, the last two seasons L.A. has been dismissed in very chump-like fashion.
The only way to stop the trend is to turn back the hands of time.
The Lakers must return to the '80s if they want to advance to the Western Conference Finals. L.A. must play the physical, jailhouse style reminiscent of that era. Some may call it dirty, while others will say it is "thug ball"—regardless, it has been a proven winner.
Whether it is the 1958 St. Louis Hawks, 1964 Boston Celtics, 1970 New York Knicks, 1979 Seattle SuperSonics, 1984 Boston Celtics, 1989, 1990, and 2004 Detroit Pistons, physical, iron will, intimidating basketball always prevail over God-given talent. This is where the Lakers must go, for there is no game plan that will give them an advantage.
Simply put, there is no play that will exploit an advantage for the Purple and Gold, because they have no advantage. Except heart and pride, which comes with an iron fist and razor-sharp elbow. Today people are quick to celebrate the shot and disrespect the shooter. Remember, it was Harden who folded when Metta World Peace bucked, and it was shock in the eyes of those gazelles known as the Thunder.
The Lakers cannot allow a trip to the paint to come without punishment being issued. L.A. cannot allow a screen to be set without an elbow being entered into the screener’s gut.
They must push it to the limit and beyond.
Now, by no means should the NBA condone fists of fury for no reason, but let them decide what is justified and what is not. The players must play. Lost in the Harden flop was an overtime win in which the Lakers displayed the true grit that champions possess.
The NBA is full of talented players who can fly in clear skies, but voided of talented players who make those same aerial assaults through turbulence. It is time for L.A. to create that turbulence.
It is time to separate the real from the pretty. Lakers head coach Mike Brown can create a game plan that pounds the ball into center Andrew Bynum and exerts his physical prowess. However, there is no game plan that can be created that displays heart. There is no game plan that will show a player how avoid screens. Lastly, there is no game plan that will give you the required pride to refuse a layup by any means necessary. It is either in you or it is not. Derek Fisher had that dog in him, however he is no longer here.
What L.A. does have is group of non-floppers in Bynum, World Peace, and Bryant who must show what is required of a champion. In life, the strong have to lead the weak. Bynum must inform James Harden no layups will be allowed in this series, and no flagrant foul will deter him from enforcing this rule.
Metta World Peace most show Kevin Durant there is nothing he will not try to keep him from scoring. Kobe Bryant must show Russell Westbrook there will be a painful price to pay should he decide to defend him.
In 1989 and 1990 the Detroit Pistons beat Larry Bird’s Celtics, Michael Jordan’s Bulls, and Magic Johnson’s Lakers with one true Hall of Fame player, surrounded by a group of enforcers. This group protected the paint as if it was their first born. They accomplished this feat with heart and an iron will disguised as an iron fist. The Lakers must incorporate those principles if they want to win this series.
L.A. does not have the talent to beat the Thunder, plain and simple. But they do have the heart and the will. They must now call on that to even the playing field.
A flagrant foul does not remove the pain that came about from that foul. Jailhouse rules is simply when you make a person choose between pain or a bucket. It is when a foul is issued on every play and the referees have no choice but to play on. It is truly the only hope the Lakers have of reigning supreme.
The NBA has done a tremendous job of distancing itself from this part of the game, yet every few years, a team finds a way to implement it on its way to a title run. The Lakers must turn back the hands of time if they are to have a future in this series.
Cynics will tell you that this is not the way to play, but those same cynics will call you champions once victorious. There was a time when winning a championship was not a game, L.A. must remember that time.