The Miami Heat are at full throttle and chasing down this year’s championship trophy like hungry lions closing in on a Thompson’s gazelle during an unforgiving Serengeti night—but the other half of the Heat-or-Three-peat storyline has suddenly slammed on the breaks.
Down two games to none against the usually soft as a marsh-mellow Dallas Mavericks, who are known for their legendary playoff chokes, the L.A. Lakers are now the ones staring down the barrel of a shotgun.
And there is a lot at stake.
At stake is this year’s NBA title. At stake is Kobe Bryant’s mountainous legacy—which will not reach Jordan-esque heights without a sixth championship. At stake is the Lakers’ dynasty and coveted double three-peat that would put them in the same conversation as Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls.
Indeed, the storied Lakers’ franchise is facing an unenviable win or else proposition resulting from their mediocre second round play thus far.
Coach Phil Jackson is retiring after this last run, Kobe Bryant’s game has been in decline because of both age and a bone-on-bone knee, and the rest of the Lakers are in a state of disarray.
And this is their last chance.
The collection of talent on this Lakers’ team is startling, yet it is obvious that they’re not playing close to their potential on either end of the floor. Gone is the high level of synergy exhibited by this team from its starters through to its bench.
In retrospect, the Lakers have already gone through the trepidation of an incredibly uncertain season—dominating and in full control for long stretches at a time during the season, only to fizzle with momentary lapses resulted in confounding losses that came in bunches.
The Lakers need to become dangerous and feared again, and they need to do it in a hurry—that much is certain. This club needs to step up the pace and focus on both scoring and defending the way they’re capable of, and the way they’ve shown us almost all season.
At their best, the Lakers offense is like a cannon.
At their best, the Lakers defense is like a sponge.
At their best, the Lakers can beat anybody, especially in a seven game series.
Consequently, and as a result of being in the hole, there is simply no choice for the Lakers right now. To continue their unimpressive and placid play is to face the reprisal of the marshmallow men from Dallas—a team that, even if they beat the Lakers, cannot hope to topple the Miami Heat.
There are several issues facing the Lakers, and the first and foremost problem is trust.
Without trust, the Lakers ship is as good as sunk, because there can be no chemistry and synergy—extremely vital components to winning. But with trust...it’s a whole different ball game.
“Obviously we have trust issues and unless we come out and discuss them, nothing is going to change. I think all 13 of our guys have trust issues right now. I mean, I think it’s quite obvious to anybody watching the game—hesitation on passes, defensively not being there for your teammate because he wasn’t there for you before, stuff like that.” – Andrew Bynum
Certainly this critique by Bynum was aimed at everybody, especially Kobe Bryant.
Kobe may be shooting too much and trying to do it all himself, and it isn’t working anymore—at least not at this point in his amazing career. So why take so many low percentage shots when you’re double teamed?
Spread the ball around amongst your teammates, especially into the post where seven foot monsters including Bynum, Gasol and Odom are waiting for easy scores.
Another glaring problem is the Lakers bench which needs to step up already. They have been nonexistent during these playoffs with the exception of Lamar Odom, and even he was missing in action during Game 2, with an uncharacteristic three-of-12 shooting night.
Matt Barnes is an excellent defender and will have to put in extra minutes to compensate for the suspended Ron Artest in game three. It’s time for Barnes to earn his paycheck.
The Lakers shooting has been atrocious as they are beating themselves with extremely poor completion rates.
Consider that (in game two) the Mav's shot only 42 percent from the field compared to the Lakers 41 percent, and one glaring shooting stat came at the charity stripe where the Lakers shot only 55 percent, making just 11 of 20.
But the actual killer shooting stat was from beyond the arc with just 10 percent of attempts converted (2-for-20). And Better shooting equals a winning formula for LA.
Pau Gasol actually played well in game two, but the only Lakers’ player who has played well through-out the playoffs is Andrew Bynum—and he is outclassing Tyson Chandler.
Dirk Nowitzki is a phenomenal player in his own right, but the Lakers as a team are much better than the Mavericks.
The Lakers don’t even need all of their cylinders pumping—just some of them, because they have so many.
Desperate times call for drastic measures, and making Andrew Bynum the No. 1 option over Kobe Bryant will help the Lakers crawl out of this hole and take their rightful place in the Heat-or-Three-peat storyline.
Bynum has been a giant of both dominance and consistency. Pass the big guy the damn ball, because Bynum is the key to Lakers chances of winning it all this season—but they need to takeout Dallas first.