America's favorite team has disappointed their fans for the second year in a row. Despite having the third best record in the Western Conference, the Los Angeles Lakers were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs. This came to no surprise, what worked in the past seems to be a problem moving forward.
Kobe Bryant shouldered the load and that was not enough. Usually the All-Star guard takes over the fourth quarter each game with heroic shots to secure the win. Unfortunately scoring 40-plus points was no match against an uptempo team like the Oklahoma City Thunder. The loss left the Lakers in peril.
They were up 3-1 over the Denver Nuggets in the first round. The Nuggets tied the series and forced a game seven. The Lakers moved on with the win but showed no perseverance as a team. In the next round they avoided a sweep by winning just one game before the Thunder advanced to the Western Conference Finals.
"It's unfamiliar territory," Bryant said after the loss to OKC. "It's pretty odd for me. I'm not the most patient of people and the organization's not extremely patient either. We want to win and win now, I'm sure we'll figure it out."
Let's not forget the rumors that began the short grueling season. Pau Gasol was to be traded, the news eft him bewildered and unfocused. Gasol fought through a rough start but lacked explosiveness. He was destroyed in the paint throughout the playoffs.
"If you look, I didn't take a shot in the whole fourth quarter," said Gasol. "That's a reality, too. I always try to make the right play, I try to get in the lane, I saw the defense collapse on me and I thought I had a good look to Metta World Peace open at the three-point line."
That play was a crucial mistake in game four. An open shot for Gasol would've tied the series with a win. Then perhaps a different outcome would be determined. In the meantime it's back to figuring out how to get the former champs back into playoff contention. After the dramatic trades this season many of the Lakers have accepted their time in Los Angeles maybe over.
"I'm not sure," Bynum said after being asked if he expected to stay in LA. "I'm not sure, it really doesn't matter to me. I'll play anywhere."
General Manager Mitch Kupchak has his hands full on building a team that can keep up with the Thunder. A young youthful, energetic, hungry team that wants nothing more than to bring hardware to Oklahoma City. It's obvious the Lakers were no match, especially in the paint and leaves you to ponder if the duo of Pau and Andrew can coexist?
Then there's the point guard situation, Chris Paul was almost a Laker but that trade got vetoed by commissioner David Stern. After Derek Fisher got traded, the responsibility fell on Steve Blake and Ramon Sessions. Probably not the best two playing alongside NBA's best player but overtime who knows. Lakers report trades are not off the table.