Consider last season when the Lakers played a very tough Denver Nuggets team. The Lakers left Los Angeles after the first two games tied at a game apiece, and actually headed back to Los Angeles for Game 5 tied at 2. Meanwhile in the Eastern Conference Finals the Orlando Magic were cruising through their series with Cleveland, heading back to Game 5 up 3-1 with the series all but decided. While both series eventually went 6 games, the Lakers worked much harder and exerted a lot more energy to get their 4 wins than Orlando did. When Los Angeles and Orlando met in the Finals, however, the Lakers took control and cruised to a 5 game title-clinching win.
It is very important for all of Lakers Nation, the players included, not to get caught up in the hoopla surrounding the Boston Celtics and a potential 2008 Finals rematch. Looking ahead and underestimating a team that isn’t out yet is always a dangerous game, and Phoenix proved tonight that they aren’t ready to join the rest of the Western Conference on their annual fishing trip while L.A. plays in the Finals.
While the final score didn’t favor the Lakers on Sunday night, there were still plenty of things to take away from this game when moving forward. First of all, the Lakers played simply terrible in the fourth quarter. How often do we see a team led by Kobe Bryant fumble the ball late in a close game like that? Not very often, so don’t expect the Lakers to do that again in Game 4 or anytime soon. Even after the loss the Lakers are still one of if not the best team at closing out victories, especially in the playoffs. There are plenty of people in Oklahoma City and Utah who can collaborate my story on this one if you’re truly that skeptical.
Secondly, Phoenix had all the motivation to win this game while the Lakers had little to none. Other than keeping up with the Celtics in the race to the rematch, Los Angeles had no real incentives for winning a game that Phoenix had to have. Considering this, the Suns still played fairly poorly and were only able to achieve victory because the Lakers failed to take it from them. Los Angeles will not show up that flat and stagnant on offense on Tuesday night, and they won’t look nearly as befuddled by that anything but impenetrable Phoenix zone.
Next: Stay positive Lakers Nation there is much yet to be decided…
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