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Lakers' Finals berth a real pundit whodunit

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#1 Makaveli


    where will i go?

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  • Fav. Laker:Kobe 'Bean' Bryant.

Posted May 31, 2009 - 02:12 PM

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Of course, I was with them all the time.

No, really.

Hey, if T.J. Simers and Phil Jackson are now partners -- as surprised, and pleased, as Phil must be to find out -- I'm the one who said the Lakers were best all along.

OK, not all along, but a lot of times.

With the Lakers in the Finals, having elevated their game, or proved their toughness, or whatever it is they're supposed to have done, people are lining up to board their bandwagon as if it were a troop ship.

Personally, I like them in four, or fewer.

Assuming the Magic shows up.

Pundits, who were haters, are now giving the Lakers love . . . to use two expressions that make me want to gag . . . but they were just doing what pundits do, getting excited over the last thing that happened.

That was the Nuggets, who started the Western playoffs 8-2, even if they beat only the Hornets and Mavericks.

Suddenly, the Nuggets weren't just athletic and explosive, they were supposedly huge Thuggets. It was true, they weren't the Nuggets of old, but their front line was still really 6-10, 6-8, 6-6, with only Nene weighing 250.

Meanwhile, the Lakers' life-and-death struggle against what remained of the Rockets suggested psychological ("they're soft") or anatomical ("no heart") issues.

Eschewing pundit talk, ABC's Mark Jackson said he was "disgusted" by their effort. In bad news for the Lakers, Kobe Bryant said he was right.

Like the Lakers' first-round wake-up calls, that was another one we hadn't heard in the postseason.

In really bad news for the Lakers, it wasn't just their effort.

Phil Jackson, who saved them for this moment, suddenly found his team in pieces around him, like Humpty Dumpty.

Being Phil Jackson, he still thought they'd win, even it they had to put themselves back together in the conference finals.

Typically, teams that aren't already together aren't in the conference finals.

Andrew Bynum had lost his starting job twice and his people were calling every name in their cellphones to mew that Bynum might not be able to play for Jackson.

Clueless as Team Bynum is, they had that right. If Bynum couldn't do better, he wasn't going to play for Jackson, at least this spring.

Derek Fisher was in a slump, The Arson Squad, er, Bench Mob was out of it with Lamar Odom camping out on the arc and Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic even more emotional than usual and Shannon Brown shooting 32% in Games 1-4.

It looked dangerous ever to take Bryant out, even if he was already averaging 42 minutes with the Nuggets bouncing him around like a pinball, and needed an IV after scoring 41 in the pivotal Game 3.

Shaken by the Houston debacle, Kobe was leaving playmaker mode and attacking whenever his team fell behind, determined not to let anyone else go up 19-4.

The Lakers hung on by their fingernails, stealing Games 1 and 3 with fourth-quarter rallies, while the Nuggets stole Game 2 and ran them over in Game 4.

At that point, with only a shot here and there between the Nuggets and a 4-0 sweep, Jackson started using their aggressiveness against them.

Instead of avoiding double teams, Bryant and Pau Gasol invited them, held the ball until the Nuggets swarmed them, then hit Odom and Bynum, who finally attacked inside.

After that, the Nuggets were on roller skates. When they tried backing off Bryant in Game 6, Kobe attacked.

It wasn't about the Nuggets anymore. Coach George Karl acknowledged as much, noting he "saw little cracks" but calling the Lakers "the best team in the NBA" at the end.

All together, Lakerdom:


Isn't this where we came in, with the Lakers everyone's darling, confident of their greatness, etc.?

Actually, these don't look like those Lakers.

Bryant drove them to the end of Game 6, reacting angrily when J.R. Smith made a three-pointer with 5:11 left . . . cutting their lead to 18.

Nor were they any fun at that cheesy trophy presentation, complete with "2009 Conference Champions" caps, treating it as if it were meaningless, as, indeed, it was.

If they no longer think they're invulnerable, it's just in the nick of time, because they're not.

The Magic was an underdog without home-court advantage against the Celtics and Cavaliers.

Orlando not only had winning records against both teams the last two seasons (5-2 vs. Cleveland, 4-3 vs. Boston), it was 3-1 against the Lakers.

With its model inside-outside game, the Magic is like the old Phoenix Suns with bigger players, making opponents run around chasing its guys.

The big, physical Cavaliers, who hadn't given up 85 points in a game during their 8-0 start, couldn't really use Ben Wallace, whose forte isn't chasing three-point shooters like Rashard Lewis. Zydrunas Ilgauskas stayed in for his scoring, but was lost on that Hedo Turkoglu-Dwight Howard pick-and-roll.

Howard put nine fouls on Bynum in 45 minutes this season, so you can see how easy he'll be to guard.

So, it's not only not over, it hasn't even started.

In the good news for the Lakers, after all their learning experiences, they finally learned it.



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