After a disappointing performance in Game 5 on Monday night, the Lakers were sent home for the second time in as many seasons after the Western Conference Semifinals.
That being said, it's important to note that during both seasons they lost to some pretty good teams. Last year they lost to the eventual champion Dallas Mavericks, and this season the Thunder have a legitimate shot to hoist the Larry O'Brien Trophy over their heads.
Despite playing a superior opponent, though, the Lakers coughed up two games in the series when they had the lead in the fourth quarter. It's easy to finger point in those situations, but there's no use. That's not going to get the Lakers anywhere.
In fact, it may make things worse.
Pau's got to be more assertive. He's the guy they're leaving [open]. When he's catching the ball, he's looking to pass. He's got to be aggressive. He's got to shoot the ball or drive the ball to the basket. He will be next game.
Although this is a very accurate criticism of Gasol and Kobe was using it as a way to put fire under Pau's behind so that he could elevate his play for the next game, he's essentially blaming the Game 4 loss on his big man.
Pau did step up during the next game and had a double-double, but the Lakers still lost the game and the series. Now the entire city and the media have become prisoners of the moment, ready to trade everybody on the team, especially Gasol and Andrew Bynum.
First of all, in the game Kobe criticized Pau for not being aggressive, Bryant shot 2-for-10 in the fourth quarter. In Game 2, which was the other game the Lakers coughed up, Kobe was a dismal 0-for-6 down the stretch.
In fact, during 2011-12 on game-tying or winning shots with 24 seconds or less to go in the fourth quarter or overtime, Bryant was just 3-for-18.
The Black Mamba was not exactly the "closer" this season. Not even close. In fact, his selfishness with the basketball may have cost the Lakers numerous games throughout the season. On more than one occasion, Bryant tried to shoot his way out of poor shooting nights, and he only got himself in a deeper hole.
There were also multiple times when he tried to take the winning shot, but he was being double or triple teamed.
Finally, let's not forget Kobe Bryant's reaction after Steve Blake missed an open three-pointer during Game 2's loss. Rather than fouling the opponent to save time, Kobe started pouting and walking away from the play.
It's surprising that no one really talks about that play.
In other words, Kobe really has no right to deflect any blame on Pau, or anybody else for that matter. Likewise, no one on the team has a right to blame Kobe.
This was a team loss. There should never be any finger pointing in basketball.
By not accepting full responsibility as a team, it's only making the situation worse, especially if Gasol stays with the Lakers this offseason.
Finally, if Kobe is only blaming his teammates to get the sympathy from the public that he doesn't have any help on his team, then he's dead wrong. He has one of the best young centers in the game in Andrew Bynum and possibly the best European big to ever play in Pau Gasol. It's easy to forget that Gasol had 43 double-doubles this year after looking at his errant pass in Game 4.
Kobe has the building pieces around him. All he really needs is a supporting cast and a solid point guard, and the Lakers are set.
So put that finger down.
Not just Kobe, but also Laker Nation.
There's really nobody in particular to blame.
Everyone is responsible for the series loss, and until Kobe realizes that, the Lakers will continue to lose.
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