The Lakers are arguably the most talented team in the NBA. Their level of talent alone can win you 65 regular season games. It can even get you past the eighth seed in the first round and possibly...possibly through the second round. Talent alone, however, will not win a championship.
In the Lakers' case, I'm only guessing that such solitary talent will get them past Houston on Sunday. However, I'm virtually certain that it will not get them past the Nuggets, much less past the Cavaliers...the likely Eastern Conference representative in the NBA Finals.
The Lakers, unfortunately remind me of my favorite NFL team, the Dallas Cowboys. They have more talent than you can shake a stick at and less heart and fewer balls than a middle school girls' badminton team.
After being embarrassed by the Celtics in the 2008 Finals, the Lakers entered this season proclaiming a greater emphasis on toughness and defense. Well, talk plus 99 cents will get you two tacos at Taco Bell. It will not, however, get you a ring.
For the Lakers to lose even one playoff game against the Yao-less, McGrady-less, Mutumbo-less Rockets is an embarrassment. To lose three such playoff games is sheer humiliation and disgust. At the root of those losses lies over-confidence and a reliance on talent alone.
Then add to those factors a lack of heart, balls, motivation, energy, and determination by every player in purple and gold not named Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher.
How does a superior team demolish an opponent by 40 points in Game Five, but then lose to that opponent in Game Six? That happens for several reasons. It happens when a team knows its more talented and then plays without any emotion or energy.
It happens when said team thinks the opponent will just roll over. It happens when said team plays hard for about 20 minutes while the opponent plays hard for 48 minutes.
There's plenty of blame to go around. The players are obviously majorly accountable for their lackadaisical attitudes and performances. I mean...How do the Lakers allow the Rockets to get away with starting a 6'6", non-scoring center in Chuck Hayes?
"Little Chuckie" should be getting a constant up-close and personal view of Gasol's and Bynum's respective "packages" as they dunk all over him. Also Pau "Ga-Soft" should be ashamed to show his face at even his sorry-ass brother's house after allowing Luis Scola to score 24 points in Game Six. SCOLA? 24 POINTS? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
However, I also blame Phil Jackson.
Yes, I know "The Zen Master" has nine rings, but his coaching in the post-season has been more like that of "The WUSSY Master". After the first quarter of the shellacking of Game Four, Jackson said that teams that come out with great emotion as the Rockets did, will burn out over 48 minutes. Well...the Rockets not only didn't burn out, they FLAMED the Lakers.
One can only assume that the Lakers' players believe Phil's "zenisms." So, it's no surprise that they wander through many games, awaiting their opponent to run out of energy. That's lousy coaching regardless of whether the coach has 10 rings or is Wade "Cupcake/No Rings" Phillips.
If the Lakers think that and play like their talent and home court is all they need to win Game Seven against the Rockets on Sunday, they'll be fishing and golfing on Monday. But even if they get past the Rockets and then continue with their current personality, they will have only briefly delayed the start of their summer vacation. The Denver Nuggets will see to that.
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