Kobe and Phil do it again (ESPN)

PPG: Lakers Trounce Nuggets, Repeat As Western Conference Champs

ppgWhat part of “crown our ass” didn’t some of you understand? This Los Angeles Lakers team found themselves during Wednesday’s Game Five win. Everybody couldn’t see it yet, though. After the Lake Show’s Game Six trouncing of the Nuggets? Yeah, everybody sees it now. Magic Johnson echoed what I said 48 hours ago in his post-game comments last night, (paraphrasing) “nobody can beat the Lakers when they play like this.”

That’s the thing — the Lakers will continue to play like this. Remember that point in The Matrix where Neo believes he’s unstoppable? Well, the 2009 Lakers have reached that point. Agent Anthony was the first casualty. Agent Howard or Agent James won’t do any better. The best team in basketball now wholeheartedly believes its best team in basketball. I want to personally thank three tough-as-nails teams — the Denver Nuggets, Houston Rockets and Utah Jazz –for helping us get to the point. Without you, the Lakers might have coasted through the Western Conference playoffs again, only to receive another beatdown in the Finals.

That’s not going to happen now. This Lakers team is not only more talented (read: Trevor Ariza) and  tough (read: Shannon Brown) than it was a year ago, it’s also more tested.

Last year, the Lakers reached the Finals relatively unscathed. Because of that, they were fat and overconfident. Kobe Bryant’s teammates also deserted him in last year’s Finals. Because of that, it took him all of this year to fully believe in his teammates once again. By believe I mean believe that they were tough enough. Tough enough to excel under pressure. Tough enough to put teams away. After proving themselves against what I feel is the next best team in the NBA ( the Nuggets), Kobe’s teammates now have No. 24’s trust like never before.

Phil Jackson and his coaching staff also deserve a lot of credit. For what? For keeping egos in check and everybody ready to play. For being patient with Ariza’s shot, a wise move that is paying huge dividends now. For going with an abnormal rotation of three point guards, none really ever getting starter’s minutes. For sticking to Andrew Bynum as a starter and Lamar Odom off the bench. For pushing Pau Gasol to be tougher and more aggressive. For resting Kobe’s tired legs as much as possible during the regular season after last year’s Finals and then the Olympics. This team easily could have imploded during either of the last two series. The Zen Master navigated his Purple and Gold through testy waters, however, and they emerged on the other side better than ever.

While we’re at it, big props to Mitch Kupchak, too. In the last two years he’s imported Ariza, Brown and Gasol. No way this team is still alive without those three guys.

Kobe was Kobe. Pau was Pau. But tonight the star was once again L.O. Why? Because when the Candyman scores 20 and plays with force on both ends, the Lakers are essentially unbeatable. He’s the key. When he and Ariza play like tonight, other team’s are D.O.A., because there’s no way you can double Kobe and Pau if they are putting up 20 and 17, respectively, and hitting their threes. And you have to double Kobe. Pau will make you pay as well for trying to cover him one on one.

AThe Lakers have always had the most talent on paper, but they now have the confidence, swagger and toughness of a champion. Because of that, nobody’s going to stop this Lakers’ championship run. Especially with the most cerebral coach-player punch in basketball, Phil and Kobe, leading the way. I’m off to celebrate…

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Tags: Denver Nuggets Kobe Bryant Lamar Odom Los Angeles Lakers Nba Finals Pau Gasol Phil Jackson Shannon Brown Trevor Ariza Western Conference Champions

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