Archives For July 2012

Fresh off a victory in the 2009 NBA Finals, the Los Angeles Lakers knew they had a title team as opposed to perhaps just thinking they had a championship roster. With that said, the Lakers wanted to make a small tweak to the roster and ended up perhaps changing the course of their fate with this seemingly small player transaction.

Trevor Ariza had played well under the tutelage of Phil Jackson and had perfectly complemented the Kobe-Gasol combo with his defense, spot up shooting as well as his ability to finish out in transition thanks to his athleticism. Mind you, he had now become a free agent and was looking to secure a long term deal that represented his value to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Instead, the franchise went in another direction and signed the artist formerly known as Ron Artest. The former St. John’s player had already manifested his interest in joining the team in a conversation with Kobe Bryant in the showers at the conclusion of the 2008 Finals — this actually happened — despite not actually playing in the championship series.

Metta World Peace was a bulldog.

In the 2009 playoffs, as member of the Houston Rockets, MWP had chased down Kobe after receiving an elbow simply to give him a piece of his mind and to ensure that such actions were never to reproduce themselves. His tough talk combined with his tough play earned him the respect of the Black Mamba, and the seeds had been planted for him to join the Lakers.

Mind you, as much as the move was done to help bolster the team, the acquisition of World Peace would give the Lakers a new blanket to put on the likes of Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and Paul Pierce should these teams meet in the postseason.

Indeed, Ron Ron was a physical defender that intimidated opponents with his strength, elbows and kiss blows. And yet, many thought that should the Lakers fail to repeat, it would be his fault given the loose canon stigma that followed him around since the Malice at the Palace.

The regular season was somewhat uninteresting by Lakers standards quite frankly.

They finished with a 57-25 record and finished 11th in offensive efficiency and fourth in defensive efficiency. Part of the reason why the regular season was somewhat of a yawner was the fact that Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum missed a combined 43 games. With players in and out of the lineup at times, and the players knowing they possessed championship pedigree, the regular season became a mere formality of sorts.

The most important thing for the team was that they be able to get by the 82-game schedule and start peaking by the time the postseason started with a healthy roster. This may sound obvious, but other teams tend to put more stock into the regular season, hoping that a top spot in the standings will earn them home court advantage in the postseason.

With Kobe Bryant playing on one leg by most accounts, the Los Angeles Lakers opened the postseason against a young up and coming Oklahoma City team that pushed the series to six games. The Lakers were victorious in Game 6 on the road and largely benefitted from the presence of Metta World Peace who hounded Kevin Durant into shooting 35 percent during the series.

The second round saw the purple and gold buy a quick cup of coffee in Utah, where they swept the Jazz in four games and defeated them by an average of plus-7.3 points.

The Western Conference Finals pitted the Lakers against one of Kobe’s most hated rivals: the Phoenix Suns.

The Lakers won the first two home games by a combined 33 points, which had many thinking this might be another sweep. Mind you, Steve Nash and his Suns proved to be resilient at home and won the following two games by an average of nine points. The Lakers eventually bounced back and won the next two contests to close out the series thanks in large part to Kobe Bryant’s spectacular play.

The former league MVP torched Phoenix in the 2010 conference finals to the tune of 33.7 points per game, 7.2 rebounds per game and 8.3 assists per game on 52.9 percent field goal shooting.

Just as this was happening, the Boston Celtics were busy taking out the Orlando Magic on the other side of the bracket, setting up a rematch of the 2008 NBA Finals that the Celtics won at the expense of the Lakers.

As fans, media members and players would find out, the 2010 NBA Finals would have it all. History, heart, talent, mental toughness, fatigue, broken bodies, seesaw matches, clutch shots and brilliant individual performances.

With the series tied at two games apiece, Lakers fans would watch Kobe Bryant singlehandedly keep his team within striking distance on the road in Boston with a masterful performance in which he just made shot after shot despite the terrific defense of the Celtics. Bryant would finish Game 5 of the 2010 finals with 38 points on 13-for-27 shooting and would get little help from his teammates as Los Angeles would lose the contest and be faced with a 2-3 series deficit with the games now going back to the Staples Center.

In Game 6, the Celtics would play like a team with a series advantage whereas the Lakers would play with a huge sense of desperation and blow out the road team and set up a winner take all Game 7.

The deciding game of the series would start with Kobe Bryant misfiring on several forced contested jump shots and his opponents would capitalize on the misses and take an early 23-14 first quarter lead. The Lakers would gradually claw back into the game thanks to their defense and rebounding. Indeed, by game’s end, L.A. would hold Boston to 79 points on 40.8 percent field goal shooting and would destroy the Celtics on the offensive glass, collecting 23 offensive rebounds to the C’s eight.

The Lakers would display the physical and mental toughness that was lacking in 2008 in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals by not only standing up to the Celtics; but by actually manhandling them.

The Lakers would have the confetti fall down on the court and see Kobe Bryant run the length of the court with the basketball and lifting his five ringers to remind everyone he had won his fifth title.

And yet, despite all the firepower on the roster, the Los Angeles Lakers might not have won the title if not for Metta World Peace’s 20 points as well as his timely shooting in the fourth quarter.

The 2010 Lakers would finish the postseason with a plus-4.3 average scoring margin and a 16-7 playoff record much like the 2009 edition. One would think that given the superior regular season record of the 2009 team, that they would outrank the 2010 unit and that is certainly a terrific argument.

However, the 2010 team played well as a unit despite injuries to key players during the regular season and played with a much sharper mental edge than the 2009 team. Statistically, the group that defeated Orlando in five games in the NBA Finals was better, but in terms of fight and resiliency, the 2010 squad that now had championship experience holds the edge.

It’s worth noting, that although it did not factor in their ranking; some fans may remember this team Lakers far longer than some of the other ones for two reasons:

I. They defeated the Boston Celtics

II. The words “Queensbridge” and “Kobe passed me the ball!” that were uttered by Ron Artest during postgame conferences after defeating Boston in Game 7. These are imprinted in the minds of anyone associated with the franchise in any way, shape or form.

The 2009-10 Los Angeles Lakers conquered their demons and also happened to manage to be back-to-back champions, a feat that has become rather rare in the modern NBA. Without question, they were a great team and the title confirmed that. But as one reporter asked at the conclusion of the 2010 finals, we know what the championship meant to the team, but what could it also have meant to a single individual? The answer…

“I got one more than Shaq”

With the NBA recently releasing the schedule for the 2012-13 regular season, it’s that time of the year again where I try to predict the Lakers record for the upcoming year.  First, let’s get some basics out of the way:

The Lakers have a total of 16 back-to-backs.  With reports out there that some teams have as many as 22 B2B’s and as few as 13, the Lakers are definitely on the low side, as has been the case for many previous years.  Also, the 4 West teams that the Lakers play only 3 times this year are San Antonio, Utah, Minnesota, and Memphis.  Since there will only be three games in the season series, all the games against both San Antonio and Memphis could have huge implications for playoff seeding, since season series is the first tie-breaker if two teams finish with the same record.  Lastly, the Lakers only have 1 stretch of having 4 games in 5 nights, so their schedule is pretty well spread out.

Quick Start: Oct 30 – Nov 18 (DAL, @POR, LAC, DET, @UTA, GS, SAC, SA, PHO, HOU).

The Lakers start off the season with a gamut of Western conference teams, notably hosting Dallas on opening night then flying to Portland the next night.  While playing at home against the likes of Detroit, Golden State, Sacramento, Phoenix, and Houston shouldn’t present any problems, the Lakers have always had trouble going up to Portland and to Salt Lake City. However, with only 4 games against opponents that made the playoffs the previous year, the Lakers have a fairly cushy start to their season.

Prediction: 8-2

Three Road Trips: Nov 20 – Dec 16 (BKN, @SAC, @MEM, @DAL, IND, DEN, ORL, @HOU, @NOH, @OKC, UTA, @CLE, @NYK, @WAS, @PHI).

The Lakers then embark on three separate road trips.  The first starts with a B2B with the new-look Brooklyn Nets at home then at Sacramento, followed by trips to Memphis and Dallas.  Then after a match-up with Orlando at home (perhaps with or without Dwight Howard?), the Lakers go to Houston, New Orleans, and then Oklahoma City.  After going home to play Utah, the Lakers head east, traveling to Cleveland, New York, Washington, and Philadelphia.  This is definitely one of the toughest stretches the Lakers have this season, with 3 B2B’s with both games on the road.  The Lakers have always struggled on the road (at least compared to at home), so I have no doubt that this is when the trepidation will start seeping into the minds of Laker fans.

Prediction: 10-5  ;  Record: 18-7

Holidays: Dec 18 – Jan 1 (CHA, @GS, NYK, @DEN, POR, PHI)

For the holidays, the Lakers get a relative reprieve from previous years.  Having played Chicago, Miami, Cleveland, and Boston the past 4 years on Christmas Day (with only 1 win against the hated Celtics), the Lakers should be relieved to not be facing the top team in the Eastern Conference for a 5th consecutive year.  Instead, they face the Knicks (and if the Knicks are #1 in the East, something went terribly wrong in Miami, Chicago, and Boston).  However, the Lakers also have a game the following night, crossing time zones to Denver.  Heading east on a back-to-back is always dreadful, but doing so on Christmas Night will probably be worse, so even a strong showing on Christmas Day may be negated by a poor outing the next day.

Prediction: 5-1  ;  Record: 23-8

Make or Break: Jan 4 – Jan 29 (@LAC, DEN, @HOU, @SA, OKC, CLE, MIL, MIA, @TOR, @CHI, @MEM, UTA, OKC, NOH)

After the holidays, however, the Lakers have arguably their toughest stretch of the season.  They start off facing the Clippers in a de facto home game, but then have to make trips to San Antonio, Chicago, and Memphis, while hosting Miami and Oklahoma City twice.  If the Lakers are really a championship contending team this year, this will be the stretch that they either put fan’s minds at ease, or put them on edge.  While the Lakers get nights off before both OKC games and against Miami, the games in San Antonio and in Chicago will be on the 2nd night of back-to-backs.

Prediction: 10-4  ;  Record: 33-12

Grammy Trip: Jan 30 – Feb 10 (@PHO, @MIN, @DET, @BKN, @BOS, @CHA, @MIA)

The Lakers annual Grammy road trip features two back-to-backs, with seemingly annual visits to Boston and Miami.  Steve Nash will also be making his return to Phoenix on the front end of a B2B with the Lakers traveling to Minnesota the next day.  The game in Boston is on the front end of one of the B2B’s, but the back end is a dreaded visit to Charlotte, the game that perennially makes the Lakers look like a D-League team.

Prediction: 5-2  ;  Record: 38-14

The Most Important Game of the Season (Maybe): Feb 12 – Mar 10 (PHO, LAC, BOS, POR, @DAL, @DEN, MIN, ATL, @OKC, @NOH, TOR, CHI)

In this stretch of the season, there are some fairly difficult games, but only one really comes to my attention.  If the Lakers are competing for a top seed in the West, they will almost certainly be jockeying with Oklahoma City.  The last game of their season series takes place on March 5th in OKC, and may well be the difference between winning, tying, or losing the season series (I can’t imagine either team being up 3-0 at this point).  This may be the most important game of the season, as it may be the difference between having home court or not having home court against OKC in the playoffs.  The Lakers also have a tough back-to-back against Dallas and Denver, while also having to face a young New Orleans team in New Orleans the night after playing OKC. And while it may not be the most important game, the Lakers will face Boston in LA right after the All-Star break; Two well-rested teams that loath one another could make for an instant classic.

Prediction: 8-4  ;  Record: 46-18

Road Warriors: Mar 12 – Mar 30 (@ORL, @ATL, @IND, SAC, @PHO, WAS, @GS, @MIN, @MIL, @SAC)

In March, the Lakers play a total of 10 out of 15 games on the road, but it will mostly be against lower tier teams.  While Indiana may continue their success from the previous season, teams like Orlando, Atlanta, and Phoenix are in the process (or will be in the process) of rebuilding, while Golden State, Minnesota, Milwaukee, and Sacramento are in that awkward phase between being terrible and being average.  There may be a few scares and sketchy defeats in here, but I expect the Lakers to mostly take care of business while prepping for the stretch run to the playoffs.

Prediction: 8-2  ;  Record: 54-20

Closeout: Apr 2 – Apr 17 (DAL, MEM, @LAC, NOH, @POR, GS, SA, HOU)

The Lakers end the regular season with 9 straight games against Western Conference opponents.  After season series record, the tie-breaker is record against Western Conference opponents (unless the two teams share a division, which makes record against Pacific Division opponents the 2nd tie-breaker), so this stretch of the season could heavily influence playoff seeding.  With match-ups against Dallas, Memphis, the Clippers, and San Antonio, the Lakers playoff seed could go anywhere from 1st to 5th or 6th, with tie-breakers settling many of the seeds.  The past 3 years, the Lakers have performed very poorly during this portion of the season.  This is partially because they’ve rested some of their stars, and with the team adding old vets like Nash and Jamison, with Bryant and Gasol getting a year older, I expect no different from this years team.

Prediction: 4-4  ;  Record: 58-24

Analysis

To be honest, these predictions have been much harder to make than the previous two I’ve done (08-09 and 09-10).  With Steve Nash and Antawn Jamison coming on board, it’s not clear if they help or hinder the Lakers greatest weakness in the regular season: letting mediocre teams back into games.  Nash and Jamison certainly provide offensive firepower, but it is generally solid defense that will hold down the less-talented teams, especially on the road.  If the Lakers use their training camp to develop solid defensive schemes, the Lakers should cruise to a record like the one I’ve predicted.  But if the Lakers D is lackluster and sporadic, they may struggle to put away weaker teams and force their starters to play longer minutes.

 

With the Olympic Ceremony already happening (we’ll get to watch it at 7 p.m. on NBC if you’re out here in the West Coast), Team USA hoops is right around the corner. Before they take the floor for the first time in this tournament against Tony Parker’s French National team, lets take a look at some of the positives and negatives that I’ve noticed from Team USA on the floor.

The Positives

The Stretch Four
Throughout the five games Team USA played, one of the problems that we consistently saw was a propensity for taking way too many long range shots. The athleticism on this team should call for a lot more penetrating and finishing around the rim and posting up mis-matches. Everyone who has handled the ball around the perimeter has taken at least one ill-advised three pointer. However, two guys were able to somewhat-consistently knock down shots from behind the arc during the course of the five games — Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony. During the five games, Durant and Anthony combined to shoot .489 from range while the rest of the team shot .404 (it should be noted that Anthony Davis shot a perfect 1.000 from three, he was one-for-one). Furthermore, a lot of those threes were a direct result of either pick-and-pops or guys penetrating, drawing defenders and kicking out to either Durant or Anthony. Of course, both of them took their fair share of ill-advised threes off the dribble, but Durant and Anthony shooting off the catch have been better than anyone else on Team USA. Also, having those two straddle the perimeter or as the pick man in P&Rs have taken opposing fours away from the rim and opened the lanes for guys like Paul, Williams, Westbrook and LeBron to do what they do best. Truehoop’s Beckley Mason has even gone on to say that Melo can take his role as the four for Team USA.

Small Ball Defense
With a roster featuring only one true center, Coach K has had the liberty (or has been forced to depending on how you look at it) to play around with some unique lineups, seeing both LeBron and Anthony spend some time at the 5. While this is a big cause for concern on the interior with the lack of size, it has allowed all five parts of the defense to move interchangeably through screens. With five athletic guys who can all defend along the perimeter, it has given the defense — in these small lineups — the freedom to switch on nearly everything. Because of this, rotations become shorter, they’re able to use their collective athleticism to jump into passing lanes, and it takes the pressure off of one guy to have to work too much on an offensive player who moves around a lot. In the game against Argentina, Kobe was assigned to Manu Ginobili. With the Argentinians running the Flex offense, Ginobili often started sets in the corner and is run through a series of screens to free him up for open jump shots or cuts through the lane. One on possession in particular, Ginobili ran Kobe to one screen and Anthony picked him up. Ginobili ran Anthony to another screen and Deron Williams picked him up. Ginobili then ran Williams to a screen and LeBron picked him up. Ginobili didn’t touch the ball on that possession and a contested jumpshot was taken. Of course, they’ll try to avoid any match ups in which a point guard is forced to take on a big, but they have the speed along the perimeter to really disrupt what opposing offenses are trying to do with their small ball lineups.

The Negatives

Zone Offense
The biggest hole in Team USA’s game is their inability to show any consistency attacking zone defenses. Starting late in the 2nd quarter, Argentina really just packed the paint and allowed the Americans to fire away from the perimeter, keeping Argentina in a game that they were down early. There was very little gap penetration, and all ball rotations were just along the perimeter. Yes, shots opened up, but it was the shots the Argentines wanted Team USA to take. Against Spain, things didn’t look any better against zone defenses. The score doesn’t really coincide with how much Team USA struggled with getting shots around the rim against Spain’s zone because they hit 13-three pointers as a team. The reality is that they shot 54 percent from three against man-to-man and only 25 percent against the zone (numbers per ESPN Stats and Information’s Ryan Fieldman). LeBron has been the best at busting zones, especially when he’s able to catch the ball near the free throw line and either attack or facilitate, but even he has been prone to just taking perimeter jumpers like the rest of the team. We should expect to see many more zones against this Team USA, and I’d like to see them counter with gap penetration and jumpers only after the ball has touched the paint. Putting pressure on the defense by attacking the rim is the easiest way to get teams out of the zone, and if they’re going to try to shoot themselves out of zone defenses, Coach K might want to have both Melo and Durant on the floor simultaneously.

Protecting the Rim
Earlier, I noted how well Team USA has defended teams around the perimeter, stopping them from getting into their sets and forcing contested jump shots and turnovers. On the flip side, they’ve been susceptible to back cuts and hard rolls in P&R sets, especially when Tyson Chandler is on the bench. Case in point is Serge Ibaka’s personal 10-point run early in the game against Spain. Chandler got in early foul trouble and Ibaka scored on a series of P&Rs and back cuts. When the defense wasn’t able to keep the ball on the perimeter, Ibaka had a field day with being guarded by Durant/Anthony/James in the paint. Furthermore, perimeter defenders were repeatedly beat back door in games against Brazil, Spain and Argentina. I remember at least two times where Kobe himself was beat back door by Ginobili in the Argentina game. These things are less of a problem with Tyson Chandler holding down the fort, but with only five fouls allowed in international play, Coach K will really have to watch his minutes should he get in any early foul trouble.

That said, Team USA are the clear favorites to take home the gold as their positives far outweigh their negatives — but their close calls against Brazil and Argentina show that this team is beatable under the right circumstances. Their opening game against France is at 2:30 p.m. local time, which would make it 6:30 a.m. PST, if it did that right (feel free to correct in the comments if necessary).

Friday Forum

Dave Murphy —  July 27, 2012

The 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony is tonight, with NBC kicking off coverage via various tape delay configurations, at 7:30 pm for both EST and PST, and 6:30 pm for CST. Plus a plethora of video updates, podcasts and the like from ESPN and Yahoo and others, as well as live streaming feeds for all events via NBC online, except for the opening and closing ceremonies. Are we all clear now? Or, to make things simpler, USA Men’s Basketball squares off against France, Sunday night.

In other news, the seismic chart representing Dwight Howard trade activity is currently registering at low levels, at random intervals. Which is fine by me, I’m fairly bored by it at this point. Which is not to say that I won’t avail us all of timely D-12 linkage until it, whatever “it” is, either bleeds out completely or becomes something real. Ready?

Brian Kamenetzky at the Land O’Lakers, reveals that Mitch Kupchak is still interested in activity that he can’t by rule actually discuss.

Ben Bolch at the L.A. Times takes a look at the newly released NBA schedule.

Janis Carr at the OC Register offers up Steve Nash’s latest video parody.

An editorial by C.A. Clark at Silver Screen and Roll, about Dwight and the possible winds of change.

Ramneet Singh at Lakers Nation rekindles the Jodie Meeks rumors.

Jordan Conn at Grantland, writes about the summer league and the last hopes of redemption.

Eric Freeman at Yahoo’s Fourth Place Medal reports on Kobe Bryant’s weight loss for the Olympics.

This is normally where I place the back end of the wraparound bumper, with some sort of pithy basketball commentary. I got nothing but a headache, and I’m hungry for lunch. Tonight though, the temperature will drop a bit, the TV will warm up, and I’ll watch the opening ceremonies. Once again, they’ll stretch on too long and once again, I’ll get caught up in the excitement and the rite of passage these games always seem to symbolize. Enjoy the weekend everyone, I know I will.

- Dave Murphy

A few days ago, we unveiled our new project at FB&G, where we ranked the 11 best title teams in franchise history since the team relocated to Los Angeles. After looking at the 11th best team, we resume the countdown by presenting to you the team that clocked in at the 10th spot…

The 2008-09 Lakers

During the spring of 2007, Kobe Bryant famously went on the air with Stephen A. Smith and proclaimed his distaste for the Lakers organization and made the statement that he wished to be traded. The team tried to accommodate his request but given his immense talent as well as his salary, any team trading for the services of Kobe Bean would have to essentially gut their roster to acquire him.

Thus, the superstar guard started the season with the Lakers and performed to his usual standards as the team played well under the tutelage of Phil Jackson.

And then the things became interesting.

The Los Angeles Lakers acquired Pau Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies in a move that completely shifted the balance of power in the Western Conference. No longer were the Lakers a team contending for the playoffs; instead they had now become a legit championship contender.

The purple and gold finished the season with a 57-25 record and Kobe Bryant earned the 2007-08 MVP award.

Many fans hoped that the league’s most ancient rivalry would be revived with the Lakers and Celtics facing off in the Finals and they got their wish.

The Los Angeles Lakers entered the 2008 NBA Finals as favorites to win the crown despite ceding home court advantage to the Boston Celtics. Indeed, the Lakers’ execution of the triangle offense coupled with the crisp interior passing of Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol as well as the mere presence of Kobe Bryant was enough for most to think Los Angeles would prevail.

Instead, the team was defeated in six games as fans wondered aloud whether a healthy Andrew Bynum — he sat out the postseason due to injury – would helped have change the outcome. Boston was physical and played tougher than their opponents and thus one of the biggest takeaways from the 2008 championship series was that Pau Gasol and both Lamar Odom had been punked.

Gasol got the lion’s share of the blame and still to this day gets labeled as soft because of those six games against the Celtics.

As bad as the defeat was, former Lakers superstar Shaquille O’Neal made things worse by freestyling a week later at a club about Kobe’s inability to get things done without him.

It was said, the Lakers could not recapture the title without Shaq…

Instead of retooling the roster, Los Angeles stood pat and welcomed back Trevor Ariza and Andrew Bynum who had both missed the 2008 playoffs due to injury. Ariza gave the team athleticism and solid perimeter defense while Bynum gave the Lakers rebounding, shot blocking and scoring at the rim.

With Phil Jackson still leading the way, the Lakers essentially owned the 2008-09 regular season, going 65-17. The team’s record was impressive, but so was their performance at both ends of the court. Indeed, the 2008-09 Lakers finished the regular season third in offensive efficiency and sixth in defensive efficiency.

A return trip to the NBA Finals seemed almost like a formality.

As the 2009 playoffs started, the Lakers easily dispatched the Utah Jazz in five games and set up a second round matchup against a gritty Houston Rockets team that was playing without an injured Tracy McGrady; who was still a good player at the time.

The teams split the first two games in Los Angeles, and then the Lakers regained home court advantage with a Game 3 victory; and benefitted from a fortuitous turn of events: Yao Ming broke his left foot.

With the Houston Rockets competing without their star center and their third leading scorer (McGrady), many assumed the Lakers would have a cakewalk to the Western Conference Finals; but that was not to be. Instead, the Rockets managed to win two more games and forced a Game 7 back at the Staples Center where the purple and gold prevailed.

The Lakers then dispatched Carmelo Anthony’s Denver Nuggets in six games in the Western Conference Finals despite the Nuggets’ rugged and bruising defenders that essentially pounded on both Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.

One year after faltering in the NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics, the Los Angeles Lakers made it back to the championship round and found the Orlando Magic waiting for them.

Kobe Bryant was his spectacular self in the 2009 NBA Finals and played brilliantly. But one player truly in need of redemption was Pau Gasol, given the events that transpired in the previous spring.

Those that questioned the Spaniard’s toughness at the time were forced to eat up their words as the big man played like a stud against the Magic. Indeed, Gasol controlled the paint defensively, guarded Dwight Howard and scored on the block when called upon. By the time the series was over, Pau had averaged 18.6 points per game, 9.2 rebounds per game and 1.8 blocks per game on 60 percent field goal shooting in the title round and even unleashed a lethal scowl on Mickael Pietrus for fouling him excessively hard from behind on a dunk.

Between Gasol’s play, Kobe’s scoring, Bynum’s defense, Odom’s passing and the timely shooting of Derek Fisher and Trevor Ariza; the Orlando Magic never really stood a chance, falling in five games to the Los Angeles Lakers.

This Lakers team proved to be a great champion during their postseason run, sporting a 16-7 record and a plus-7.2 average scoring margin.

In addition, this team will be remembered as perhaps the most important one to Kobe Bryant’s legacy given his ability to finally get over the hump and lead the franchise back to the mountaintop without the help of a certain Hall of Fame center that left Hollywood five years prior.

Mind you, as great as this team was, it gets lost a little in the rich history of the franchise because of their opponents. Through no fault of their own, the Lakers dispatched a host of teams that no one will truly remember and struggled to take out a Houston Rockets team that was missing its two best players for most of the series.

Oddly enough, when looking at health, talent and production from key positions, this might just be the best Lakers team of the Gasol era, but ultimately this team feels like it should have been a little more dominant than it actually was.