Thursday, June 4, 2009

It Wasn't A Lockout, They Planned This Week Off

I could have sworn that there was more basketball to be played after the Conference Finals. Was there a strike? Did I miss it? I could swear that it has been a week or two since they last played so I guess they're...oh, what's that? After playing every other day for 100 games, they just suddenly needed a week off to rest up? That makes sense.

I suppose the NBA looks at this pre-Finals week-long break the way the NFL looks at the Super Bowl layoff. The difference, of course, is that the NBA Finals is not the Super Bowl. The interest from the common fan is not remotely as high, especially without the Kobe-LeBron storyline. And even when the NFL takes an extra week off before the Super Bowl, they are only skipping one day since they can only play once a week anyway.

"But the players need the break." No they don't. Kobe is tired? So is Dwight Howard. May the best man win. If hockey players can play the same number of regular season games, the same number of playoff series, each with the same best-of-seven format, and then can start up the Stanley Cup Finals with no extra break, basketball players should too. And not only did the Stanley Cup Finals start right away, they actually played on back-to-back nights for the opening games!

So when this two-and-a-half month old tournament comes to an end next week, who will be on top? Laker fans and the L.A. media seem to think it is a foregone conclusion that L.A. will win based on the fact that they played so beautifully in their final game against Denver. The problem I see there is that you are taking their lackluster performances from the previous 20ish playoff games and throwing them out, and saying that that one game was the "real Lakers." How often during the season were they that spectacular? They won all the time, but they were never particularly impressive (except when playing the Clippers).

Ultimately the Lakers are a better balanced Cavs-clone. The vaunted depth of the Lakers is pretty overrated and in the closing minutes, they shift to Kobe-mode every game. Who is on the bench? Sasha Vujacic (hahahaha), Luke Walton (one good game this postseason), Shannon Brown (exciting, but not that good), Trevor Ariza (very good), and that's it. Andrew Bynum is not right yet. Lamar Odom is Lamar Odom and many not show...may look like an All-Star. Pau Gasol is great but against Dwight Howard? And Kobe Bryant will score 40 per game.

Once upon a time, the New York Giants had the best record in the NFC and absolutely crushed the Vikings 41-0 in the NFC Championship game. They had played a perfect game, with Kerry Collins throwing for five touchdowns and close to 400 yards. They held Randy Moss to two catches for 18 yards. Bother sides of the ball...perfect. So the momentum was theirs right? Wrong. The Ravens, and their defensive mindset, crushed the Giants 34-7 and if it were not for the outfit that Britney Spears wore at halftime, the day would have been a total and complete loss. See any parallels here? Best record, perfect semi-final game, high confidence, defensive opponent.

So the moral is that the Lakers and their fans should not hang their hats on that deciding game against Denver. That said, I still don't see how a jump shooting team can win it all, but they did just beat the reigning champs (or a shadow of them at least) and the LeBrons. I suppose if I had to pick, I'd go with the Lakers in an ugly 6 games. I don't think it could be less since the NBA inexplicably shifts to a 2-3-2 format for the Finals after playing three rounds of 2-2-1-1-1 in the playoffs. Also because NBA refs won't allow a road team to win two games.

So don't miss out on any of the action (from about midway through the third-quarter to the end of each game)!

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