I'll say this about this year's NBA Finals, it has been entertaining. Even the games that were supposed blowouts ended up being exciting in the end. I haven't seen this much close basketball in the NBA Finals in years. It has been every bit the series I'd hoped it would have been, as a basketball fan.
As a Laker fan, however, I am sorely disappointed. Every aspect of their game has been destroyed by the suffocating and physical play of the Celtics. Pau Gasol has played like a less effective Vlade Divac, Lamar Odom has decided to take his vacation early, and the normally unstoppable Kobe Bryant has been essentially taken out of three of the games they've played so far.
Phil Jackson seems completely incapable of getting a consistent performance out of his bench or his starters, and I'm starting to wonder exactly how the Lakers rolled through the West like they did only to be stymied by a team that struggled to make it past the Atlanta Hawks.
That being said, the Lakers are not done yet. It's a one-game season for the Lakers from here on in: they need only worry about today, because tomorrow may not exist. They have nothing to gain by holding back, and nothing to lose but their pride.
It's an uphill battle, as no team has every won a Finals after being down 3-1. But the same was said of the Boston Red Sox a few years back, down to their last inning before coming back to win their series against their own archrival, the Yankees.
It's possible, but not probable.
The Lakers need to change a lot of things, not the least of which is the way they play defense. They've been lazy, slow, and lost at times. I watched Sasha Vujacic, normally a staunch, harassing defender, pull a Roger Dorn "Ole!" move in the final seconds of a close Game Four, letting Ray Allen drive down the lane unimpeded for an easy layup.
Derek Fisher turned to him with a "What the hell, man?" look on his face, and Fish, I feel your pain.
Mostly, the Lakers need to not be caught unawares by the Celtics bench, most notably PJ Brown and Leon Powe. Both have hurt the Lakers with their defense and energy.
The Lakers should counter with Ronny Turiaf and Trevor Ariza, two hyped-up, athletic players ready to prove themselves on the court. As long as Turiaf doesn't keep throwing up jumpers, he'll be a better defender than Gasol or Odom. Ariza can be the Lakers version of Powe, a relative unknown bursting off the bench with energy and passion. The fact that he didn't play more during or after Game Three is amazing to me.
To sum up, the Lakers can win, but it won't be easy, and I give them about a snowball's chance in hell of pulling it off. But I'll be watching, because it's been entertaining so far, and it probably will be to the end.
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