Watching Game Five of the NBA Finals reminded me that there is so much more to the game of basketball than having one or two superstars on your team.
In any team sport, in order to be successful on a consistent basis, a team needs to utilize every player on the roster. One player doesn't make or break any team. Like the saying goes, the chain is only as strong as its weakest link. You need every player to contribute in any way possible.
The Lakers foolishly thought that just because they have arguably the greatest player on the planet, they would be able to win the Finals.
In order to have a championship-caliber team, you need a team effort day in and day out. You cannot rely on one player to win every game.
Kobe Bryant's performance in the third quarter of Game Five gave Lakers fans, like myself, the illusion that a one-man performance can be enough to bring the team a victory. If anybody on the court is hitting fade-away jump shots and 40-foot three-pointers, you would think that his team is carrying momentum.
The Boston Celtics brought us back to reality. Although Kobe was hitting ridiculous shots, they weighed no more than a lay-up or a 15-foot jump shot.
Doc Rivers called a critical time-out during Kobe Bryant's barrage of jump-shots to keep his team composed. He reminded them that as long as they play their game and stop the other Lakers from scoring, they will win the ball game. He told them not to be rattled by Kobe's crazy shots because they count just the same as a regular layup or jumper.
The Celtics were able to compete with Kobe's scoring by playing solid defense and executing on offense. They had a rhythm with the basketball and they were able to keep everyone involved on both sides of the ball.
The Boston Celtics showed everyone how basketball should be played. They showed us that every player on the floor has to be able to play offense AND defense. They used this simple philosophy to take the lead in the series.
The key to beating the Lakers in Game Five was stopping Kobe Bryant. It sounds really simple and cliché, but if you were watching the game, you would see that it really was that simple.
The Lakers' bench players looked intimidated by the Celtics' bench players. They've been hearing talk all week about how the Celtics bench outplayed them in Game Four. You would think that would be enough motivation to make some type if impact in Game Five. That just didn't happen.
Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum were extremely ineffective. You can say Bynum has a bum knee and although he did play hard, he just couldn't compete at his highest level.
Derek Fisher had a hot start with his shooting in the first quarter, but was unable to stay with Rondo throughout the game.
Ron Artest might be the most inconsistent player on the Los Angeles Lakers on both offense and defense. End of story.
With the Lakers being down 3-2 in the Finals, the key to winning the championship is very simple.
Everybody needs to step up!
Every Laker, besides Kobe, needs to enter the game with a purpose. Whether its Jordan Farmar playing tighter defense on Rajon Rondo or Lamar Odom focusing on boxing out the Boston bigs on the boards, every player needs to have a game plan.
The Boston Celtics were a better team than the Lakers in Games Four and Five. There's no argument there.
The Lakers need to play as a team. When the Lakers are playing basketball using all five players on the court, no other team can stop them. The problem is that they have been so inconsistent as a team, they are forced to rely on Kobe to score.
If the Lakers want to have any chance at forcing a Game Seven, they need to play hard, play some defense, and play together.
The team that wins the championship every year isn't the one with the most talented players. It's not the team with the highest-paid players. It's not the team with the best statistics.
The team that wins every year is the team that gets contributions from every single player on the roster. The teams that win are the ones with depth on their bench to provide some support to their starters.
Are the Lakers capable of being the best team this year?
Will they show up on Tuesday night to prove it?
Let's hope so, Lakers fans.