L.A.Triumphant: Lakers Earn League-High 30th Finals Berth

Harrison MooreAnalyst IIMay 30, 2009

Just coming back from watching “Drag Me To Hell” I missed the majority of the first half and didn’t know what to expect when I first turned on my television set; I half-expected a sequel.

To be completely honest I did NOT pick the Lakers to win tonight as the Lakers have dragged me and the rest of their fan base through hell for the majority of the post-season due to their inconsistency and lack of killer instinct.

I’m currently too excited to go through the complications of looking up the official stats, but in the Lakers last visit to Denver they were not only beaten by 19, they gave up approximately a kazillion offensive rebounds and simply looked flat.

Besides lets face it, after too long it becomes nearly impossible to tell the difference between inability and apathy, particularly in the playoffs and until now, the Lakers seemed to have a little of both.

But just when you thought you had the Lakers figured out, they once again disintegrate everything you thought you knew about them (albeit in a good way this time) as they beat Denver 119-92.

It was the most lop-sided home loss Denver had suffered since February 23rd, when the Celtics routed them in a 114-76 shellacking.

Tonight, everything is all smiles; everything is all cheer, but everyone in Lakerland knows that their second straight Conference Championship title isn’t the objective that this entire season has been based upon from the start.

Last year, many felt that the absence of Andrew Bynum and Trevor Ariza were key reasons that the Lakers fell short in the Finals. Ariza’s defense has been a colossal difference maker already, particularly in games 1 and 3 of this series, when Ariza stole the ball twice from sloppy inbounds plays late in the fourth quarter, each time sealing a Laker W.

While Bynum may not have made his mark on the post-season yet, mark my words, we haven’t seen the last of his all-star caliber alter ego who averaged 14 ppg and 8 rebounds over the course of the regular season. I guarantee we haven’t.

For now, only one last question remains: have the Lakers turned the corner for good?

In and of itself, this is a scary question, because it is the same question we’ve asked endlessly in these playoffs only to be met with a resounding no.

When the Lakers blew a 13 point lead against Utah in the 3rd game of the first round, resulting in their first loss of the post- season many wondered if it would serve as a wakeup call. Instead they nearly allowed their 22 point lead to evaporate in game 5 a few days later with the Jazz cutting it as low as single digits.

When the Lakers finally took care of business in Houston the way they were supposed to in game 5, with their 40 point thrashing of Houston, many wondered whether they had finally found the motivation they had been so desperately lacking. Instead they allowed themselves to be beaten by 15 the next game.

There is no definitive answer when questioning if the Lakers have finally turned their “A” game on for good. Although conventional wisdom may so no, the Lakers haven’t looked as dominant as they have in the last two games since they opened the season with their flashy 7-0 start. I would even say that the Lakers are finally starting to look scary, starting to look hungry.

Noteworthy: when was the last time you saw Kobe Bryant attack the rim so often in one series?

I don’t know if the Lakers have turned the corner for good, but I do know this: they’re battle-tested, unlike they were last year and they’re healthy, unlike they were last year.

All the pieces are in place, and the Lakers are finally in position to claim the redemption they’ve been talking about since last year’s lopsided game 6 loss to the Celtics.

For all the question marks circling this team, one thing is certain: If the Lakers play anything like they did tonight for just four more times, they’ll be going into this summer as NBA Champions.