Tonight was the night. Lakers fans had been waiting for it from the moment that they painted the words “NBA Playoffs” on the floor of 16 arenas around the country. It was on this night that the Lakers finally played to their potential, showed a killer instinct while putting a quality Denver Nuggets team down in their building and in convincing fashion on their way to a 119-92 victory and a second consecutive trip to the NBA Finals.
Their performance in Game Six reminded me of the dominant Laker teams from earlier this decade that won three straight championships. It didn’t matter to those teams whether they were playing in the Staples Center or on the road, they had a mission to accomplish, a game to win and they did it and left no doubt. Tonight gave me great optimism that they can go into either Cleveland or Orlando and get the job done.
What stood out most to me was the fact that they had a balanced attack getting contributions from several key players. Kobe Bryant led the attack with 35 points on 12-of-20 shooting and 10 assists. Pau Gasol finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds. Lamar Odom brought his best effort for the second straight game en route to a 20 point, 8 rebound night. Trevor Ariza made the Denver defense pay by sinking 3-of-4 three point shots including the executing of big shots in the first half when the game was still up for grabs. Ariza finished with 17 points on the night.
As the game progressed, the Lakers continued to play aggressive basketball, never taking their foot off the gas and putting away what has been a top notch Denver. It was only a series ago where the Lakers went into Houston and laid two eggs there. It was in the Utah series where they held a double digit lead in every one of those games and eventually gave the lead back in all of them, losing one. On the road this playoff season they had shown up on the nights where they had to have victories on the road which were Game 3 of both the Houston and Denver series but had failed to give their best effort in road games where they didn’t have to win. The Laker teams from earlier this decade wouldn’t do that. They brought the same intensity on a nightly basis and would put you away when they had you down. Those teams eventually became champions. That’s how champions play. If they bring this same effort for one more series, they will once again become champions…for the 15th time in franchise history.