SportsProf

(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.

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Friday, June 11, 2004

Whither, or is it Wither, the Lakers?

SportsProf is getting a good laugh from all of the punditry that has gone on about the Pistons-Lakers series. Yes, SportsProf has predicted that the Lakers will win in 6, and yes, SportsProf has Young SP chanting "Slava Medvedenko" at every opportunity (try meditating to it, it's quite relaxing). Most pundits (with the exception of Mike Greenberg on ESPN Radio, who picked the Pistons to win the whole thing -- at the outset of the playoffs) did pick the Lakers to win this Series. After Game 1, they still thought the Lakers would win. After Game 2, they talked about how the collapse of the Pistons would haunt them forever (visions of Scott Norwood and the missed field goal against the NY Giants in the Super Bowl came dancing into my head), and that the Lakers would seize upon this moment and turn the series around.

Well, the Lakers looked out of sync, old in parts, hurt in parts and tired in other parts last night. Larry Brown's team played excellent "help" defense, went at Luke Walton when they had the ball, and, really, quicker than you could utter "Slava Medvedenko", the game was over. Gary "The Glove" Payton played more like "Thing" from "The Addams Family" (he's scored a total of 2 points in the 51 first half minutes he's played in this series), and Kobe Bryant's game was AWOL for most of last night. Put simply, the Lakers laid an egg and now trail 2-1 with 2 more to play in Motown before they'd get a chance to return to L.A. Looks bad for the Lakers, right?

Yes, it does (ESPN ran a stat showing that in the past 5 years, every team that won Game 3 of the Finals Series won the Finals), but don't count them out yet. They trailed a very good Spurs team 2-0 and rallied to win that series. They have 2 of the top 5 players in the game in Shaq and Kobe, and those guys, along with Derek Fisher, know how to hit the clutch shots and win big games. Fisher has to get more playing time over Payton, so the big question is who will be the answer at the 4 spot with Karl Malone playing on one wheel? Brian Cook? Luke Walton? Slava Medvedenko?

Larry Brown versus Phil Jackson. Shaq and Kobe versus Ben and Rip. But then there's Chauncey, Tayshaun and Rasheed.

Sunday night should be a lot of fun.