Friday, May 15, 2009

Reality Bites (Game 6 Recap)

You know that feeling you get when you realize that something's not as good as you thought it was. That favorite cartoon you watched as a kid that suddenly got corny. That hairstyle or namebrand that looked fresh now looks stale and dated (except for these people bringing back flattops and lines in their head). Thinking that the real world would be yours for the taking except realizing it's a bigger world that's harder to get settled in?

That's how I feel about Game 6 with the Lakers last night. After the Rockers jumped out a 17-1 lead before I could get comfortable, it confirmed the Lakers are not who we thought they were. I was feeling this way after Game 4 to be honest. No championship team could give up in the 3rd quarter of a game and it was time to stop dreaming about a parade.

The first quarter made it all the more obvious: this team is not championship material. It baffles me that the starting lineup had no sense of urgency but the 2nd unit did (led by Jordan Farmar's 13). In a game they needed to look hungry, Houston looked hungry. Luis Scola had more passion than Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom combined.*

Which reminds me, I was puzzled at the Lakers radio crew lauding Odom's toughness before the game as far as playing with his bad back. Odom has physical toughness for sure, but mental is a whole diff. animal. You can play hurt, but can you play con huevos for 48 minutes? He can't.*

Fresh off making his first All-NBA team (3rd team), Pau Gasol looked like melted butter. He made it clear that he got the award for his offense and NOT his defense as Scola made him his dummy all night. It was like watching Hakeem Olajuwon dismantle David Robinson the year the Admiral won MVP.

I hadn't felt that bad since Game 4 of the NBA Finals when the Lakers gave back that 24-pt lead and LA felt like a ghost town. The living dead, I called it.

As everyone is trying to describe what the heck happened yesterday, I have one word: reality. I've said a lot about what this team has (youthful energy, a better version of Trevor Ariza, Pau Gasol) but we've tried to overlook what they've lacked since the 2nd month of the year. Toughness and a sense of urgency.

Cleveland has that. They know LeBron may bolt in 2010 (my opinion, he ain't going anywhere) so they built a better team this year. Denver has that. Carmelo Anthony has rebuilt his reputation and Chauncey Billups has found new life being back home. Boston has that with KG reduced to an F-bomb dropping spectator and motivator. Now Houston has that with T-Mac and Yao on the bench. Fans recognize it and popular support is behind them.

I realize that a Game 6 beatdown in the NBA Finals couldn't do it. I realize that losing Andruw Bynum and having Lamar Odom play his best basketball in years couldn't do it. I realize that Phil Jackson's mind games can't do it anymore because he being out-coached by Rick Adelman like Adelman wanted revenge for the 2002 Western Conf. Finals. Common sense says play DJ Mbenga more like you're playing Jordan Farmar more, but eh like my grandma used to say, sometimes common sense just isnt that common.

If Game 4 convinced me to stop with the parade talk, Game 6 deflated any dreams of the NBA Finals. I'm taking every win one game/one series at a time. Forget counting down to 16, i'm counting down to 4 - as in how many victories to win a series. It has me feeling blah about the two greatest words in sports - Game 7.

It's one thing to laugh at Orlando for being in a Game 7 when they've should beaten Boston 4-1 (Big Baby Davis has become a man after Games 4-5) but it's not funny when you consider the Lakers were worse. At least ORL was in the game and just folded under pressure, the Lakers didn't even bother showing up til too late.

Yeah, the Lakers will win Sunday but it's been a joy-less series that's exposed the lack of a collective corazon needed to not just win a title but take back the respect Boston snatched and Houston has re-snatched. Reality bites indeed.

I end this post with my condolences to Wayman Tisdale's family. The NBA veteran and jazz musician lost his fight with cancer today at 44. Mom told me that she had met him on a recent cruise and said that he was in such good spirits despite losing his leg in his fight. He was a beast at Oklahoma, becoming the first freshman to make the AP All-America 1st team and did it again his next two years. He also won a gold medal with the 1984 men's basketball team (the same team as Pat Ewing and Michael Jordan)

A 12-year vet in the NBA, he transitioned to jazz as a bassist and received critical acclaim for his work. A true success story in two fields, he will be missed. Rest in peace in that heavenly band.

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