Maybe it is time for Los Angeles Lakers fans to panic.
What happened to the magic "switch" the Lakers were supposed to flip in the playoffs? Did Phil Jackson not pay the electric bill?
The Lakers were an embarrassment Saturday night. They got ripped to shreds by a team in their first-ever playoff series who seemed completely unfazed at the thought of playing the defending NBA champions.
As the Oklahoma City Thunder punished the Lakers during Game 4 of their first round series, something became very clear.
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The Lakers fall into one of two categories:
Category A: They played Game 4 at half-speed without putting in 100% effort, much like they’ve played throughout this entire season. If that is the case, then they are gutless with no pride in themselves, and no respect for their fans. They care so little about the organization they represent and the history of said organization by allowing themselves to get embarrassed in a game that was never even close. They lack the leadership, heart, and brains to contend for this year’s championship prize.
Category B: They played Game 4 at full-speed, putting in 100% effort, and are in big trouble for the rest of the series. If this is the case, then the Lakers are still an embarrassment, but a different kind of embarrassment. The kind of embarrassment they were in 2004 when they got beat down in the finals by a team that wanted the championship more and, frankly, deserved more. Of course, those Lakers had the excuse of imploding the entire season due to Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant being at each other’s throats, Karl Malone being injured, and Gary Payton being a not-too-intelligent square peg in a round hole.
Make no mistake about it, this is nothing like the Cleveland Cavaliers-Chicago Bulls series happening in the other conference.
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Barring the Cavs getting their manhood ripped away from them like the Lakers did tonight, they deserve no comparisons to the humiliating train wreck that was the purple and gold in Game 4.
Unless LeBron James decides to shoot the ball only ten times despite being 50% from the field, he deserves no comparison to the artist formerly known as the Black Mamba.
Skip Bayless of ESPN First Take fame often refers to “weird Kobe” when discussing the Lakers. “Weird Kobe” randomly decides to stop shooting for no apparent reason, despite his team needing points. “Weird Kobe” who at times is called the best player in the NBA, passes the ball a few times in these games to make it look like he’s playing the facilitator role, and then becomes a non-factor for the rest of the way.
“Weird Kobe” does not deserve to ever be compared to Michael Jordan.
Aside from Bryant completely putting his legacy in question, there were a number of other interesting questions that arose after Game 4.
If every basketball fan in the world and their mother understand the Lakers have an advantage in the middle, why are they not taking advantage of it? How hard of a concept is it to pound the ball to two seven footers who have the potential to demolish the Thunder in the middle?
What happened to Ron Artest? Kevin Durant scored 22 points in 31 minutes, easily maneuvering around Ron-Ron as if the former Defensive Player of the Year wasn’t even there.
Also, if Russell Westbrook were tied to Nenad Kristic, would he still be able to outplay Derek Fisher? Westbrook put up 18 points in a game that saw him torch all three Laker point guards thrown at him.
Finally, what is the reverse of “making” someone in the mafia? It is said that when a gangster earns his stripes, the books are opened for him, and he becomes a made man. The so-called Bench Mob of the Lakers is no longer a mob. They aren’t even a street gang. Boy Scouts are more feared than the Lakers’ second unit.
Something needs to change, and it needs to change quickly.
When the Dallas Mavericks got upset by the Golden State Warriors some years ago, at least there was a logical explanation for it. The Warriors posed match-up problems, Dirk Nowitzki was soft, etc.
The Lakers have no excuses. They are a far more talented team than the Thunder, far more experienced, and they are the ones with the match-up advantages.
The winners of Game 5s win 83% of the first round series. Phil Jackson typically wins in the first rounds of the playoffs, and in a series where his team was up 2-1.
The Lakers have history on their side.
However, if this team has proven one thing by tonight’s effort, it’s that it isn’t too proud to not go down in embarrassing fashion.