Yesterday, in recapping the Lakers’ most recent gut wrenching loss our closing thoughts were on supporting this team until the very end. The thinking goes that while this series certainly has the look and feel (and historical precedence) of one that’s all but over, fans turn their focus to “all but” portion of that phrase rather than that all encompassing “over” part. This is the nature of being a fan.
Over at Land O’ Lakers, there is a sobering post (that’s well worth your time) that speaks to this fact; a post that I think sums up exactly what many of us think and feel at this very moment. The fact that the Lakers are in this bind now but really have been in this bind all season. That Dallas is more than a worthy foe, that they have shown to be the better team. In exploring this, Brian Kamenetzky does an excellent job of summarizing how the mind and heart can be on two different pages:
The image of greatness is hard to erase, especially when obscured by near-greatness and familiarity.
For this season’s Lakers, the alchemy of timing and performance appears to have eluded them, despite the lofty expectations. Gasol’s postseason collapse has robbed them of critical production, the outside shooting has gone almost comically cold, even relative to the team’s own middling track record on that front. Meanwhile, Dallas has raised their game to a level the Lakers can’t match.
All that remains now is the chance for a miracle, the idea the Lakers might do what nearly 100 teams before them couldn’t, and recover from a 3-0 hole. I know it won’t happen, but even then it’s hard to completely kill the memory of how good this group has been. Some team will some day be the first to pull it off, right?
But while we who root for the players to win find a balance between what we think will happen and what is likely to happen, the players themselves have no such luxury. They have no other recourse to believe that they will in fact be that team that defies the odds.
Earlier today, Andrew Bynum’s twitter account lit up with the simple phrase “MAKE HISTORY!”. And at Lakers’ practice, Kobe Bryant still speaks like a man possessed to win and one who sees no other option but to do so.
Which brings me back to the nature of being a fan. As I stated yesterday this series is not, technically, over. Dallas is in firm control, make no mistake, but the Lakers are still alive. And while I’m not saying they’ll win the series, my focus isn’t on that ultimate goal but only on one game and what they can do in this single contest.
With the way the players are talking, I turn not to logic (as I so often do when breaking down the X’s and O’s of the game) but to hope. Hope that they can pull out the victory that’s eluded them in the first three contests. Hope that one of the game turning plays goes in the Lakers direction. Hope that in this dark corner of the Lakers season they’ll rally one more time to show us that they can pull it out. For some reason, I still have confidence that they can do this tomorrow and take the series back to Staples for one more crack at it.
Maybe I’m as crazy as Kobe Bryant for believing such things. After all, the plays that have needed to be made have all been made by the Mavericks. And is often the case in the playoffs, those plays go to the team that’s better (think back to Gasol and Artest’s tip-ins from last year’s playoffs). But in a make or break game, I still have faith in this Laker group. The odds say I’m wrong and maybe I will be. But tomorrow I’ll be watching to cheer this team on, hoping that we’ll all see Tuesday together.
There’s a first time for everything.
My sentiments exactly. I’m not optimistic, not confident…but I’m hopeful. One game at a time.
If you put it in terms of: “We’ll win tomorrow, see what they can do in LA, take game 6, and let the fans carry us home in game 7”, it sounds better than 0-98.
When the lakers take tomorrow’s game, the celebs that fill up Staples better bring their A game in game 5, god knows the boys need it.
Game 4 will be the toughest game to win of the series, even if the planets align and this goes 7 games. There will be times when we get behind and the less-experienced players on the team get down on themselves, lose energy, check out, and want to resign, knowing they’re also behind 0-3. It’s going to take something – and excuse the cheesiness here – borderline magical to pull this one off. LA has rolled over in 2 of the last 3 games, and at this point, it could just be as simple as playing for pride to not get swept, 0-4.
If we do win this Game 4, there’s no way we’re losing Game 5 at home. Period. And suddenly it’s 3-2. Game 6 will be in Dallas but with LA owning the momentum. If we ride THAT wave and miraculously win Game 6…
…that’s Game 7 here in Los Angeles with all the momentum at home.
Plausible? No. Possible? Yes. But it all starts with a singular goal:
Win. Game. 4.
Let’s make history!
With no team coming back from a 0-3 deficit doesnt mean that no team can do it. If ever there is a Team that can comeback from a 0-3 deficit it is this Laker team. And the best team to do it against is this Mavericks team. Hope springs Eternal!
Thought it was interesting to hear Magic comment on the series during today’s ABC halftime show for the MEM/OKC game. Magic explained that the team is tired both mentally and physically, but interestingly – he suggested the teammates might be tired of each other. He also suggested that the Dr. Buss needs to “blow the team up,” get younger and more athletic in order to keep up with the “new NBA.” Lastly, he was adamant that everyone, BUT Kobe was tradable.
Let’s see if this core group of guys can make a last stand against the Mavs tomorrow – might just be their last stand together (which might not be a bad thing in the end).
dave m says
Very nice piece Darius, as is the preceding one. A lot of thoughtful pens to paper today, across the various outlets. Loss will do that. I’m with the assembled hopeful – all in for the rest of the ride.
“Gonna keep this train moving,” Bryant said. “You can either be on it or in front of it.”
I’m on it!
Kobe needs to realize that he is no longer the most effective or efficient scorer on the team. That role has been taken over by Andrew Bynum.
They should be going to Drew as the primary option- passing it to him in the post on every possession and letting him decide what to do.
There really has to be a “changing of the guard” – Kobe is no longer the player he once was, but he thinks he is, and it is hurting our team.
The question is will Kobe be willing to step aside as the primary option? I’m not sure his ego would be able to handle it, but that has to be done.
This offseason the Laker management need to give him a choice: either play within the offensive and feed the ball to Drew on every possession, or ask him where he would like to be traded. If he is not playing as a part of the team and doing what he is told, then he is really is hurting the team.
I am indeed hopeful, like some of you are, about the team’s overall chances in the series. This series can be won. History can be made. Just have to take it one game at a time.
Despite tomorrow being seen as a doomsday but the basketball punditry and opposing fans, I am not only hopeful, but excited.
I am excited to see how this team comes out tomorrow. I am excited to see Kobe Bean Bryant in a one-game playoff. I am excited to watch Drew come out again with the fire and passion that we have always wanted from him. I am excited to see if Pau Gasol can be the player that he is and not the phantom Pau we have seen lately. I am excited to see if Derek Fisher can muster together another legend-building performance. I am excited to watch Ron Artest play some ferocious defense. I am excited to see if Lamar Odom make it his time to shine. I am excited to see if the Killah B’s can be the force off the bench that they can be.
This team has my faith. Their accomplishments together have earned them that much. I believe that they can win this series. I can’t wait to see them try.
I’ve watched this video a few times today. Just thought I would share it.
Ken from Newport says
Sad to see the hated Celtics have clearly more heart then our Lakers. Correct me if I am wrong but haven’t they played as many games as the Lakers the last 3 years? Well there goes that excuse. Also correct me if I am wrong but are they not older then the Lakers! Well there goes that excuse.
Any more excuses out there?
Magic also insinuated that the days of Kobe being the leagues best closer are over. While picking Miami to win tonights game against Boston (which they didn’t), he based his reasoning on the opinion that “they have the 2 best closers (‘Bron n Wade) in the game.”
Question is, was he truly sincere when he made that statement or was he indirectly (or some would say, directly) trying to motivate Kobe?
T. Rogers says
The Celtics won one game. They haven’t won the series. I do give Rondo credit for gutting it out with what is probably a very painful elbow injury. If you watched them the first two games they looked just as old and discombobulated as the Lakers. Let’s see if Garnett can duplicate that same performance in two more days.
Asked how Bynum, so dominant throughout much of the game, was taken away in the last five minutes, Bryant discounted the premise of the question. “The last five minutes are when I go to work. And I didn’t the last game,” he said. “I’ve got to make those plays. I’ve got to get the ball and make those plays.”
Land O Lakers via BK
Also, Garnett, Pierce and Rondo delivered big-time. Makes me a feel a little worse about the Lakers than I did already.
No time for eulogies right now, the patient is not dead. If and when we bounce, there will be plenty of time for recriminations and pointing of fingers. This may be the last stand for many of these Lakers. But for now, we defy death for one day more! Let’s go Lakers.
I think Lakers can still win game 4, but they have to change a little bit. Memphis and Atlanta won game 1 with beautiful ball movement, that’s the way to beat good defensive teams. Dallas tried to double-team Bynum, Gasol, but i did not see other Lakers move around to help teammates. One time i saw Gasol passed to Bynum, he was open and Bynum scored easy. Memphis had three players around basket, they can pass the ball to open man, who can shoot 2 points. If Lakers try to shoot 3-points with Dallas, Lakers will loose again, because we don’t have pure shooters and this is a game on the road.
Dustin @ 10 – Your post is interesting and I think is at least mostly correct.
I’m not so sure, though, that teams would be clamoring to take on Kobe’s huge contract, not to mention all the other “stuff” he brings.
Funky Chicken says
@Ken, you don’t want to try to dispell the fatigue argument on this blog, believe me I’ve tried but these folks aren’t buying it. That the older and equally “fatigued” Celtics showed up and played with pride in their game 3 won’t carry any weight with those who are committed to the idea that we are losing because it’s so hard to go deep in the playoffs four years in a row.
@robinred, I had not seen that quote from Kobe, and if it is accurate it is disgusting and it helps illustrate Bynum’s comment about the deep lack of trust on this team. If the last 5 minutes are when Kobe goes to work, I guess we know where to point the blame for the repeated 4th quarter collapses….
Lakers will win the series. Count on it!
Darius Soriano says
#20. Yeah, because going deep into the playoffs 4 years in a row is consistently done. In 2009 the Celtics lost in the 2nd round. Injuries played a role there, but the fact remains that there’s historical precedence that speaks against what you seem to think should be a cake walk.
I said on the other thread that I think we need to distinguish among age, fatigue and mileage.
I think the Lakers are just a little too old, have played a lot of basketball the last four years, and do not have the personnel to get the job done in this series. All these things are interconnected.
And, as we all know, post-season is about matchups. Dallas is as big as the Lakers, has the best big in the series, and can do something the Lakers can’t: Hit the 3.
As far as people wanting Kobe to step aside and the idea that his style of play is hurting the team: I have heard this for several years, usually from LakerHaters rather than Laker fans. My position is the same now as it was in 2006: sometimes he shoots too much, but when the Lakers lose, there are usually far more basic causes than Kobe’s shot selection. That is the case in this series.
And, as I have said, I think people overwork the “get it inside” and “run the sets” memes. Part of that is the Lakers, but a lot of it is the Dallas defense packing the paint down the stretch. Bynum is not yet ready to anchor the offense–lacks the moves and the reps.
That said, Kobe has of course slowed down a little. But he is nowhere close to being the main problem with the team right now, although I can see not liking the quote.
dave m says
I like what #11, Bynumite said, about the excitement for the game. We can all see the incredible challenge ahead and the difficulties that have been present all year long. Still, there’s always hope and the ultimate sports dreams. And it gives us something to write and comment about, sometimes in the wee hours.
I hope Kobe didn’t mean shooting contested jumpers when he said “make those plays”
Where has this team’s “clutchness” gone? I fail to remember so many 4th quarter collapses…I can only contribute this to the very same can of “lack-o-trust” that Bynum opened a few days ago – only it’s not defense, but actually offense. This team has been affected by Kobe’s “hero virus,” and that simply won’t get it done when the likes of Odom, Brown and Gasol just can’t be trusted to run what has worked the past 3 seasons: Inside/Outside.
Darius Soriano says
The game preview is up. Let’s get this win.
I must confess to being confused and befuddled. I get what Kobe means by his remark about “his time”. What causes the confused and befuddled is that it doesn’t explain the ball not going in. Meaning that even if the plan is for Kobe to put up the shot, he helps himself do that by presenting Bynum as a credible scoring threat. So the only excuse for the ball not going in is, Bynum does not present a credible scoring threat and there’s nothing we can do to change that, Bynum presents a credible scoring threat but their defense is taking him away and we’re not willing to find a solution, or there are “trust issues” late. As I said, label me “confused and befuddled”.
That said, the related concern that I have is that the rules mandate only one ball in play at a time. When Bynum was playing hurt and/or less aggressive, should not and so was not a problem with him, Gasol and Kobe all on the floor at the same time. But if all concerned demand their “touches” there might be a problem between the three of them. I hadn’t really thought about the matter all that much until following last game, when on another site, some souls were discussing last season’s 1 February 93-95 loss to Memphis.
That was the game wherein Kobe passed Jerry West on the all-time scoring list. For those who griped about Kobe having 0 assists in game 1, in Memphis he had 3. He also went 16-28 from the field (4-7 on 3s). Pau, however, was 4-7 from the field and in post-game comments remarked as to his lack of touches. And after congratulating Kobe on passing West (said he was proud of Kobe, and “I congratulate him”), he went on to say, “Now we can focus on winning games again.” Ouch.
I will have to disagree with more than a few, Pau included, but I don’t care how many touches the others get, since if Kobe can put up a 16-28 every night, well, sign me up. Don’t really think that we can otherwise blame Kobe’s 28 shots as causing Fish to go 1-6, Lamar 2-9, and Farmar 2-7, for a combined 5-22. In a 2 point game, the fault isn’t 16-28 but 5-22, as I really can’t see 16-28 causing 5-22.
I hope that I’m wrong, but if not, and having to be not merely not alpha dog but also not beta dog is causing Pau’s passivity, then he might as well gather up his marbles and go home. And I hope that I am wrong, as the Celtics, of all teams, show the way here, what with Pierce, KG and Ray Allen showing that a Big 3 can exist in harmony. Though maybe the problem here is that 2 of our 3 are a little too similar, i.e., while Pau has an outside game he is still primarily a post up player as is Andrew, while the Celts don’t have that, what with KG down low, Pierce up top, and Ray on the wing.
The other problem may simply be Kobe. And not in a bad way. Think about it, excepting Pierce, how many other SG have been on a team with a Big 3? Magic was a PG guard, so he’s out. Everyone else, other stud SG, seems to be a case of the 2 stud team with superior role players. Jordan would obviously be the best example, with Pippen as the 2nd of the Big 2 and then a superior rebounder of the likes of Rodman (who was simply a human vacuum of rebounds down low). By the way, Jordan also averaged 22.9 shots per game over the course of career. Despite the Kobe is a ball hog meme, Kobe has only exceeded that average in two seasons. 02-03 was 23.5 and 05-06 was 27.2 (so when they say that Kobe is a ball hog, remind that Jordan averaged more shots per game and that Kobe only bested Jordan’s career average in the 2 noted seasons, and for our purposes, when they say, yeah, but Jordan put up a better FG%, then you say, good, and so what the problem with Kobe’s 16-28?).
And so, to conclude this long post, while I cringe every time Magic opens his mouth of late (what happened to you Magic?), he may be right about the need to break up the team, as maybe the team needs a superior wing player instead of two down low, and, yes, Kobe plays on the wing as well, but there are two sides to the floor.
For another almost forgot, but maybe it’s just my feeble mind, but while thinking of all this, and that Pau and Andrew might be too similar, the thought crossed my mind that maybe that actually lessens our supposed height or tall advantage, meaning that 2 too similar will have trouble doing the same thing at once since they are too similar (they’ll be doing the same thing), whereas the team might be better served by a more complementary player. Unfortunately, since Bynum’s knees will always be a concern, might mean that the team needs to shed both big men, in exchange for Dwight and some superior wing player to be named later.
All of that being said, there’s still Sunday. Pau man up and be aggressive, and easier said than done but let it be natural and not forced (kinda like Lamar’s 2nd post of Peja there late in the 4th quarter, well, it had miss written all over it and so I knew it was no good even before it left his hands and his body language/movement was all wrong and it looked forced to please Kobe’s plea of posting up Peja). And let’s hope that Kobe doesn’t put up a 12-28 (by the way, not wishing to jinx anything, but all of my realism re likelihood of combat is owing to Kobe not having that bad shooting game yet; pity that we couldn’t have gotten that out of the way for this series). Oh, for yet another almost forgot, while I grew in LA and was a Dodgers fan first, back in the day, the Royals were my second fav or AL team (70s and most of the 80s). 1985. Royals down 3-1 to Toronto, but come back to win the AL 4-3. Royals down 3-1 to the Cards, but come back to win 4-3 in the Series. So there’s hope. And as Danny Jackson said in the clubhouse with the champagne flowing, We shocked the house! Depending on your generation, I’m down with or up for some shocking the house!
anyone else dislike magic johnson past few years?
Kobe, bynum, anb artest look like the only ones trying, which is the story of the series
Get Gasol out of the game I don’t want to see him on the court for the rest of the game he is a complete joke.
Mavs doubling Kobe whenever he touches the ball and why not, no one else on the team is doing anything on offense or defense.