Who can forget the speculation over last summer that this Lakers team could be legendary? Many said they would win the west. Some said they would win the whole title.
At this point, that’s just a funny memory. Mostly due to an incredibly unfortunate series of injuries, the Lakers are a shell of that hypothetical team that we created.
Just look at the guards that started for them yesterday. Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock. They’re D-Leaguers, for heaven’s sake! That was supposed to be Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash.
To compound the matter, the players that were supposed to be Nash’s and Bryant’s back-up–Steve Blake and Jodie Meeks–were out injured as well! The Lakers had less perimeter talent last night than I have ever seen an NBA team put on the floor. The best play creator on the floor was Pau Gasol. A seven-footer!
To feel even MORE sorry for ourselves as Lakers fans, five of the players who took the floor last night showed up on the injury report. Let’s not forget that Gasol, World Peace, Howard, Jamison, and Jordan Hill are playing hurt right now. The only fully healthy players who took the floor last night were the two aforementioned guards from the D-League, Earl Clark, and Chris Duhon. Yikes.
Injuries are winning the battle with the Lakers right now and it would be easy to hide away and feel sorry for themselves. After all, no team has ever come back from down 3-0 in a playoff series and the Lakers have virtually no chance of doing that.
So what do they have to prove in Game 4 in Los Angeles? I just want them to give a strong effort. As a fan, I have basically conceded that they are going to lose the series. It’s a given. Maaaaaaaybe they can win Game 4, but even that is a stretch given just how devastated they are by injuries. Play as a team, play hard, fight for loose balls, make smart decisions, and whatever happens happens.
I just ask for one specific thing. DO NOT repeat the events that happened in Game 4 of the 2011 Western Conference Semifinals against the Dallas Mavericks.
It was supposed to be Phil Jackson’s final run. It was supposed to be the year that Kobe matched Jordan by completing his second three-peat to give him six rings. The Mavs had a strong team and caught the Lakers off-guard in that series and went up 3-0, setting up another Game 4 similar to the one that the organization presently faces.
But what happened that afternoon was a series of events that embarrassed the organization. It’s the most humiliated I have ever been to be a fan of a sports team.
It started as a competitive Sunday matinee game. Although the Lakers had lost the first three games, they were all close and viewers everywhere figured another exciting game was in store.
Through the first quarter, the game was going just as the doctor had ordered. It was close, fast-paced, and fun to watch for both sides. Kobe Bryant had scored 13 points on 6-8 shooting and LA trailed the Mavs by 4 points at the time that the second quarter started.
Now… that second quarter brings back many horrid memories, so I don’t want to go into too many details, but to put it simply: the Mavs caught fire from beyond the arc like no team ever has before.
By halftime the Mavs led by 24. At the end of the game, when the dust had settled, the Lakers had lost by 36 points. The Mavericks bench scored as many points as the entire Lakers team that day. Jason Terry and Peja Stojakovic combined to put together one of the greatest single shooting performances in NBA playoff history. Terry knocked down 9 of 10 shots from three and Stojakovic was 6 for 6 from three.
The victor of the match-up was evident before the second half had hardly even begun.
So, losing by three dozen in the final game of a series sweep that ends the career of a coaching legend is pretty bad, right?
The thing is… this wasn’t even the reason the Lakers embarrassed themselves on that date. It was just the hideous way that they handled getting blown out. They were absolutely immature and acted like toddlers when faced with adversity.
They were walking up and down the court by the fourth quarter, and hardly even cared to contest a three. The effort should always be there no matter what the scoreboard says.
Furthermore, some of the players on the team failed to contain their frustration and unleashed flagrant fouls on Maverick players to eject themselves from the basketball game. Whether it was Andrew Bynum absolutely clotheslining JJ Barea on a drive to the basket then removing his shirt while being escorted off the court or Lamar Odom throwing a shoulder into a completely unexpecting Dirk Nowitzki, it was a pitiful display of events for professionals.
There is a way to handle your anger but this is simply not it. After Bynum delivered his cheap-shot, I turned the game off immediately and hoped I would never see the Lakers do anything as pathetic as they did that night.
That’s really the point behind my message. Many NBA teams get swept in the playoffs, like the Lakers likely will on Sunday night.
Some handle it like men and act professionally, recognizing that they were outplayed and looking forward to what is in store in the next season. Others throw a temper tantrum and make the whole organization look bad in a game that practically turns the basketball court into a boxing ring.
The last time the Lakers were put in this situation, they fell in that second category.
This time, against the San Antonio Spurs, redeem yourselves and keep your respect by going down honorably, playing basketball the way that Naismith intended it to be played.
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