We’ve been down this path before. Just like Trinity told Neo, we too know exactly where this road ends. As Laker fans we’ve encountered this scenario almost 10 years ago to the day.
Quick, call up John Cusack and tell him fire up the hot tub. We’re going back to 2000!
Back then, the Lake Show was a finely tuned war machine being led by first year coach Phil Jackson. PJ’s Zen approach awoke the slumbering beast and the seeds of a budding dynasty were sewn.
A funny thing happened on the way to the first of three titles. The best team in the NBA didn’t even look like the best team in the West as the Lakers dropped 3 of their final 6 games including consecutive losses to the Mavs and Spurs to conclude the regular season.
Waiting for the Lakers were Nor Cal rivals the Sacramento Kings in the first round. The first two games went according to plan as the eighth seeded Queens were dealt two crushing defeats in L.A.
Then the series shifted to Sac Town. After two straight losses, the Lake Show felt their heads wringing louder than a cowbell in Arco Arena. The upstart Kings returned the favor to their neighbors from the south and a mini-rivalry was born (hard to call it a true rivalry since the Queens never got the best of the Lakers in the post season).
Any of this sounding familiar yet?
The series went the distance, culminating in an elimination game 5 (yes young Laker fans, there was a point in time where the first round was best of 5) and the Lakers finally flexed their championship muscle. It was all Lakers as the young Kings were crushed 113-86 under the pressure of a closeout game on the road.
Now I’m no fool. I fully realize that this Laker team is much different that the 2000 squad. That team also had lapses in focus. They also went through mind-baffling stretches during games when the most dominant force in the game – Shaquille O’Neal – wouldn’t touch the rock. Just for good measure, they even fell into a deep hole in the fourth quarter at home against Portland in game 7 of the Western Finals.
But we know how that turned out.
How will this year end? I can’t say. All I know is that we’ve been down this road before and we know exactly where it ends.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating for this series against OKC to go 7 games. I’m just saying that even if it does, there’s no reason to hit the panic button. As history has shown us, the road to glory is not always a smooth journey. There will be ups and downs and moments of doubt.
There will also be those moments when the Lakers will show the world what it means to be a champion. Nothing screams “Champs!” like closing out an opponent on the road.
But as Morpheus told Neo, there is a difference between knowing the path and walking it.
Time for the 2010 Lakers to do as Martin Lawrence would say and get to steppin’.
Now where is Cusack so we can get back in time for the game tonight? I forgot how weird it was to see A.C. Green with that bear on his head.