And then there were three.
“We’ve got no breathing room at all,” said Kobe Bryant following the Lakers victory over the Trail Blazers Wednesday night. “I’m still on edge. We’ve got three more games to win and we’re in.”
Few competitors rise to the occasion under fire like Bryant, something we know we can fully expect to see until that final buzzer sounds April 17th.
That said, basketball is – and always will be – a team game.
A single player can only carry a team so long and so far. Ask Wilt Chamberlain, ask Lebron James, ask Charles Barkley.
Sure, there was the occasional player like Hakeem Olajuwon who transcended the star studded casts that traditionally hoist the Larry O’ Brien.
Or teams such as the 89-90′ Knicks or the 2004 Pistons that boasted the level of team chemistry, purpose and defense it takes to win a championship playing team ball.
But the Lakers do not have team chemistry. They do not have Hakeem Olajuwon. And they certainly don’t have anything even close to resembling a defense.
However what they do have is talent, a lot of talent. Question is, can they get out of each others way long enough to remember that.
For example, when Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett came together in 2008; we questioned their team chemistry, we questioned their depth and we certainly questioned the hype.
Eight months later, the Celtics were champions and we all know who they beat to get there.
Point being, Boston won that title because they had talent – not chemistry. Chemistry is rarely formed by a team in one year. Chemistry is cumulative in professional basketball, just as it is in any sport.
For example, think of the Heat’s Finals performance in 2011 and then think of their dominance when they returned in 2012. One year was talent, another was chemistry.
So what exactly did the Celtics have in their first year together that set them apart?
The common sense to get out of their own way. They set aside their egos; played freely, through each other and within themselves.
They allowed each other to play their game. The opportunity for each player to play their way without giving it a second thought – and it worked.
Could it really as simple as the Lakers getting out of each others way?
At this point, your guess is as good as mine and we can only hope they give themselves a fighting chance to find out.