After nearly six months of hearing, “we’ll be fine when the playoffs come around,” and “our regular season performance won’t determine how we play in the postseason,” judgement day had finally arrived for the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday afternoon. After nearly suffering a catastrophic breakdown to end the season, which almost sent the Lakers slipping to the fourth seed in the Western Conference, they managed to squeak out of their final games in second place.
With the Lakers sporting the worst record (30-10) against sub-.500 teams among the league’s top eight ball clubs, few would argue against the usage of words such as “complacent” and “content” to describe the Lakers’ 2010-11 regular season.
Unsurprisingly, the Lakers’ tactics didn’t disappear with the regular season as they likely hoped.
They came out flat, lazy and sloppy. And after watching 82 games of the Lakers playing with that mentality, it wasn’t shocking to see their false sense of security kick them in the ass during one of their most awaited games of 2011.
It has nothing to do with the New Orleans Hornets winning or Chris Paul going off for 33 points, 14 assists and seven rebounds. Rather, it all falls down on the Lakers, their players and their mentalities coming into the series. The Lakers – who are supposed to be the two-time defending champions with three straight finals appearances – came to play regular season basketball, while the Hornets – who lack any sort of depth or notable postseason experience – had their playoff game faces on from the opening tip. And while the Lakers might be the better team, they certainly did not play as such on yesterday.
Not to berate the point, but game one was most certainly a result of who the Lakers were during the regular season. Although there are no stats to back it up, and no player will admit to it – they coasted during the regular season, and that was on display yesterday.
It may have worked last year, but the league is so much better than it was just a year ago. Teams are smarter, more experienced and they have slowly picked up on the Lakers’ game plans. This means that the Lakers cannot let up at all in the playoffs. The other 15 teams want a title just as badly – if not more so – than the Purple and Gold. Which is understandable, considering that only the Lakers have come out as winners the past two seasons.
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