Why do the Lakers find themselves in the midst of complacency and underachievement this year in the playoffs? Having just completed a seven game series with Ron Artest and a Houston Rockets team without Yao Ming or Tracy McGrady. Basically a team of glorified role players, who managed to hang around and make enough baskets to expose the Lakers fatal flaw. It was and has been a sense of entitlement all year long.
It started last year when the Celtics handed the Lakers one of the worst defeats in Finals history 131-92. That score should be written in their locker room, Kobe should constantly be reminding his team that finesse and efficient Euro ball did not win them a title last year, and it will certainly not carry them into a dream finals matchup against LeBron and the Cavaliers.
In the NFL there has been a a running stat (for the last handful of years), each team that goes to the Super Bowl and loses, has a let down season the following year. This may not be the case for the Lakers as they finished with the best record in the West. For the Lakers, however, this year will be considered a failure if they do not win the Championship. Especially considering the fact that the Celtics will not be defending their title due to the loss of KG, and perhaps the fact that the Cavs could have beaten the Celtics with or without KG.
In the NBA, each game does not carry the same weight as it does in the NFL, especially with the fact that the playoffs are decided in a best of seven format. This allows teams to take off a game or two in a series, depending on the discrepancy in talent and motivation.
If the Lakers were an NFL team they would be the Dallas Cowboys (two years ago)—on paper they're great team with possibly the best talent. When it came to playing hard and bringing a high level of intensity each game, they fell apart when confronted with hungrier more aggressive teams (NY Giants, Philadelphia Eagles).
The Celtics last year and the Rockets this year showed that a team with less talent can have their way with LA. There is no reason that the Lakers should have played a Game 7. The truth is they should not have played a Game 6 and maybe even Game 5 against the Rockets.
Now looking ahead to the Nuggets, will they come out Tuesday night and bring that same passion and fire that they did in Game 7, or will they come out flat like they did Game 1 against the Rockets? I can confidently say that the Nuggets are not intimidated at all by the Lakers. Not one player, not the Zen Master, Kobe forget about that—Kenyon Martin sent a message early to Dirk and the Mavs. I expect the same message to be sent at some point in Game 1.
The Nuggets will come out and look to challenge the Lakers' toughness or lack thereof. George Karl is a good coach and he will be aware of sending that message early and we the fans will wait to see how long it takes the Lakers to respond. I'm predicting a Game 1 victory for the Nuggets, with LA not waking up in time to salvage a respectable score for the next morning's LA Times.
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