My favorite aspect of the NBA playoffs is how quickly the tides can change.
Just four games ago, the Los Angeles Lakers were being called out by every radio host, talk show, newspaper, blog, and other sports mediums—including those in Los Angeles—for being old, slow, and not having what it takes to beat the young, upstart Oklahoma City Thunder. Suddenly, Kobe was past his prime and couldn't cut it anymore, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum weren't strong enough for playoff basketball, and Phil Jackson wasn't making proper adjustments.
That was four games ago.
Kobe Bryant has scored 30 or more points in his last three games, playing a balanced and unselfish role while knowing when to go into attack mode. Every starter for the Lakers has played well. The bench has been as inconsistent as can be, but that is no different from the regular season.
The point is, in a matter of 192 basketball minutes, the Lakers have shut up 90 percent of their doubters and brought a sense of calm and normalcy back to Los Angeles.
While the Orlando Magic look like the best team of the remaining eight, it is important to keep in mind that they are playing great basketball from top to bottom. The Lakers haven't gotten consistency from their bench yet, so their ceiling seems to be a little higher.
How it all shakes out remains to be seen, but 192 minutes can make all the difference.
Three Things We Learned:
1. The Utah Jazz Have No Chance to Win This Series
That's a harsh statement—but most truths and realities are harsh.
There is no question that Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer, and company are leaving it all on the floor. They are scrapping and trying but they are simply outmatched. They have no answer for Gasol or Bynum, no answer for Kobe, and no consistent go-to guy on offense.
In game two, the Jazz were - 58 to 40. The Lakers blocked 13 Utah shots to just four by the Jazz. The Lakers hit 51 percent of their field goals to the Jazz 39.6 percent. Despite having ten more turnovers and shooting less than 25 percent from three point range, the Lakers never had a doubt that they would win the ballgame.
2. Kobe Bryant Is Back
Maybe he never left, but we all assumed he did. But since the questioning of his talent and ability grew in volume, the games fiercest competitor did what he has always done; silenced the critics.
The Jazz have no answer for Bryant. He is playing the most efficient basketball in a long time, possibly his career. Bryant has had no trouble getting his teammates involved while racking up assists, or taking over by scoring at will.
Double teaming Bryant is not an option because the Jazz already have trouble with Gasol, Bynum, and Odom. Jerry Sloan is a heck of a coach, one of the game's best, but he simply does not have an answer and I don't blame him.
3. The Lakers Get Bored Easily
Similar to game one, the Lakers had a double digit lead for most of the game, only to see it dwindle down in the fourth quarter.
Complacency sets in with this ball club and they look as if they are bored out there at times. While that may be a testament to their talent and ability, it's a little worrisome when you consider the remaining teams. Guys like Steve Nash, Manu Ginobili, LeBron James, and Paul Pierce will make you pay if you let them hang around long enough.
While it may be working for now, the Lakers need to get a little more of that killer instinct that they had last year and bury teams when they have the chance.