So what went wrong yesterday?
Don’t start with Derek Fisher because CP3 had a monster game. Chris Paul is better than Derek Fisher, so get over it, now. Fisher is not a kid anymore, and as we’ve seen, he’s not the fastest player either. CP3 is going to blow by him quite a few times over the course of the series, and we’ll probably see the likes of Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest and Shannon Brown given the defensive assignment of covering the all-star point guard throughout the series. But just because we have Fisher as our starting point guard doesn’t mean they’ve already lost the series or the title.
As inclined as I am to put a lot of the blame on Gasol, who did his best Chris Bosh impersonation yesterday with eight points and six rebounds, the loss can’t fall completely on his shoulders either. The Lakers’ shortcoming was simply a collective effort.
No matter what you do – whether it’s sports, theater, music or anything that requires a final performance, how you practice and prepare is going to make or break you on the main stage. And in basketball, if you don’t practice and play your regular season games with the energy and intensity of a playoff game, it’s going to come back to haunt you when the postseason actually arrives. It’s how bad habits are formed, and yesterday, the Lakers’ offense and defense was ladened with them.
So, have the Lakers completely put the kibosh on their hopes for a third consecutive title? Not necessarily. Although their almost constant display of complacency will be a hard theme to shake, they have still exhibited their immense amount of talent and experience. They know how to win games, and it’s ultimately up to them whether or not they want this title.
I’m not going to fall back on my own personal regular season complacency and say that one game means nothing, because obviously it does carry some weight. However, this series is shaping up to be similar to the Lakers’ first round series last year, in which they were the number one seed, and didn’t offer a complete effort, extending the matchup to six games. This doesn’t completely mean that the Lakers are going to be okay, and they’ll finish off the Hornets handily (although, I fully expect them to do so).
I’m not worried about this specific circumstance affecting Bryant – he’s a natural born killer and he comes to play all of the time. But for guys such as Gasol, Bynum, Odom and the rest of the Killer B’s, they are going to have to mimic the mentality of Bryant. And if they do so for 16 games, they’ll come out on top of the world, just like everyone them expected to.