Friday, May 15, 2009

Lakers Lack Heart Of a Champion

Fourteen years ago, then-Rockets (and future Lakers) head coach Rudy Tomjanovic reminded us to never underestimate the heart of a champion. Well, the 2009 Lakers won't be champions because they lack the heart.

For about a week, I've heard all the crap about the Lakers not having that killer instinct to win the title. How they couldn't stomp out a team when they were down.

I would then point back to the 2000 Lakers. They were trying to get their first championship and they had the same exact rap. They led the Sacramento Kings 2-0 in their first round series (then a best-of-five). The Kings handily beat the Lakers twice in Sacto only to get blown out of the gym in Game 5 by 27 points.

In the second round, the Lakers got a 3-0 lead on the Phoenix Suns. Then the Suns won Game 4 by 19 points. The Lakers would go on to end the series the very next game by winning by 22.

In the Western Conference Finals, the Lakers held a 3-1 series advantage over the Portland Trail Blazers. That's nearly impossible for Portland to overcome once you remember that the Lakers still had two home games. Yet, they choked away Games 5 and 6 ... and nearly Game 7. If not for a furious fourth-quarter comeback, Portland would have advanced to the Finals.

Even in the Finals, the Lakers struggled to finish off the Indiana Pacers. Holding a 3-1 lead in the Finals, the Lakers were blown out by 33 points in Game 5. The Lakers would come back home and finish the series off.

That Lakers team was 4-6 in games that they could eliminate their opponent. Think about that. They lost 6 times when they had the chance to end the series right then and there. Yet they still won a title.

The difference between then and 2009 is that I don't see this Lakers team having the hunger nor the heart to win a title. How in the heck does a Rockets team without Yao Ming or Tracy McGrady blow out the Lakers twice and force a Game 7? How? How?

The Chewbacca defense. It doesn't make sense. I love the Lakers, but the loss tonight to the Houston Rockets felt like the end of the series. LA still has a chance to go home on Sunday, win and advance to play the Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals. But does anyone have any faith that they will win?

I firmly believe that the Lakers will beat Houston on Sunday ... and the Rockets will have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. But how can you with any confidence believe that the Lakers can beat the blazing-hot Denver Nuggets in a seven game series?

It is ridiculous that this series has gotten this far. So, to me it is ridiculous to believe that the Lakers can beat the Nuggets ... let alone the Cleveland Cavaliers.

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