Why the Los Angeles Lakers won’t win the Championship.

There I was, about to shoot my arms in the air and scream like a child as i watched Kobe’s arching 3 drop towards the basket. 2 seconds left in Game 5 against Denver and the Lakers are down by 3. 
“Kobe! To send the game to overtime!”

He misses. Deflation.

“Sessions with the rebound! They have one more chance!”

Barely a second on the clock, Sessions shoots a prayer from behind the arc and all of a sudden I know the shot will go in and the Lakers will win. Their 3 point shooting had been the only thing keeping them in the game. Prior to Kobe’s final shot, the Lakers had made their last seven 3 pointers. kobe had made his last 4. They had no right to be in this game but now Sessions was about to send the Staples Center into a frenzy…

“He misses! Denver take game 5” and the series is now poised at 3-2 Lakers.  

I watched Game 4 where the Lakers were completely dominated in the mile high city. I had a mountain of negative comments i could have made about the Lakers that night. Unfortunately I didn’t find the time to blog my thoughts until after today. So i though the lakers would close out the series and my points would be silenced. 

Jeez, how wrong can you be. The lakers were arguably worse in Game 5 even though they only lost by 3 points. One of the commentators said of the Lakers when they went on a scoring run in Game 4, “That’s the problem, the Lakers just have so many offensive weapons that it’s impossible to defend them all”.
This may be true, but hasn’t every team in the League had a shooting hot streak for a few minutes this season?

We can look at the positives of LA going 2-0 up with Bynum’s 15 blocks, Gasol’s assists, Sessions facilitating skills, Kobe’s brilliance and the bench points of Blake, Barnes and Hill. However, now all of these players have lost their touch because Denver has understood how to play them. Just as every team will.

We’ll start with Sessions the new point guard. He started with LA so well, pushing the tempo and finishing with over 15 points and 5 assists each night. Nothing spectacular, but consistent and much better than Fisher. The one aspect Fisher had on Sessions- his 3’s.
With this in mind, think about how well Bynum was playing…..when he wasn’t double teamed. Denver obviously had to stop Bynum somehow so they threw two men on him at every occasion in Game 4. Now it truly astounds me what Bynum plays like when he has two men on him. He reminds of that kid in gym class that would get the basketball and awkwardly shuffle his feet, travelling, whilst having no idea what he should do with this big orange ball he now had. 
Bynum simply can’t pass out of a double team. Now if I was 7 feet and over 200 pounds playing with two men on me, I like to think I would be able to simply pass the ball out to the open man.
For Bynum, this is impossible.
Yet when he manages to pull of this incredible feat, the ball usually winds up in the hands of Barnes, Sessions or the new step in small-forward, Ebanks. All three of whom have struggled all season with 3’s. 
LA are not a perimeter shooting team. Denver realised this and changed their defence accordingly.

Now back to Sessions. As he brings the ball up towards Bynum and looks to pass into the post, the Denver point guard has started dropping back to block off the pass. This leaves Sessions with a good 4 feet of space to shoot a 3. Unfortunately he lacks the confidence still to hit that kind of shot. Something Fisher had no problem with. If Bynum is open, send it to the post for him to work, if not, shoot your open three. 

How about Pau Gasol? He was on fire as the offence started running through him in the high post. He would sit there every night and pick impossible passes with his height and quick hands, often finishing with double digit assists. He is not in the team to score big. He is the best big man passer in the league. So why for the last 2 games has he stopped this and started shooting more? He was 1-9 in the first half of Game 5 from the field.

Ebanks isn’t giving much but he isn’t expected to. Elbow World Peace will be back in 3 more games and Ebanks has been quietly solid in his place…for a third string small-forward.

Matt Barnes however has not stepped up in place. His three point shooting has been woeful. Even if he has ended the games with 10 points he has not shot his perimeter shots when LA has needed him to.

Jordan Hill had a great couple of games finishing with 10 points and 10 rebounds of the bench, Unfortunately, he has just been found guilty of domestic abuse so we probably won’t see him on the court much longer.

What does all of the above do? Convince Kobe that he needs to do everything himself. Sometimes, he can. More often than not, he can’t. Yes he did finish with 43 points last night with a clutch 4th quarter. Yes he still takes outrageous shots. But you have to remember that Kobe is one of the few players who truly believes that every shot he takes, is definitely going in. Now I know i’d rather someone like that take the most shots, regardless of the fact that we all want him to keep shooting. Why? It’s entertaining. We enjoy watching our favourite sports stars or even just talented sports stars being put under pressure to pull through. Jordan Hill shot a buzzer beater in game 4 at the end of the half that went in. It was not exciting and i barely smiled.
Kobe shot one at the end of a shot clock after spinning out of a triple team. I practically leaped out of my seat as he flicked his wrist before seeing the ball bounce off the rim.

The commentator was right when he said LA have plenty of offensive weapons. Even Steve Blake has stepped up with his 3’s. But they become easy to defend against once you understand you need to keep Gasol from passing, Sessions from driving, Bynum from having one marker and World Peace from…playing.

Defending kobe isn’t an issue. Defend the rest of LA and Kobe will undeniably become more frustrated. His 43 points were lucky, make no mistake. He finished 14-32. It could easily have been 7,8 or 9-32. When that happens all the other team needs to do is play their offence against Blake, Sessions and the smaller guards who simply can’t defend the paint once someone drives in. Bynum’s help defence is shocking. (Don’t let the one game of 15 blocks fool you, it was the first in the series.)

Now LA have to go back to Denver where they will blame the thin air after they lose again before coming back to LA for the decider. One game that I am not entirely confident about them winning.

Let alone any of the games they play against Oklahoma City if they get through… 

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