- The Season's Over -

Postcards From LA, Vol. 19: One Lakers Fan Tracks His Team Through the NBA Playoffs

June 19, 2008

The Last Postcard From LA

As long as the Los Angeles Lakers survive through the 2008 NBA playoffs, Empty the Bench’s West Coast correspondent Christopher Thell will be submitting a local fan’s take on his beloved Lakers’ postseason trials, tribulations and successes. In this edition: the devastating loss sinks in.

“Gasol was great (36 points, 16 rebounds, 8 assists and 3 blocks), Kobe superb when he needed to be in the fourth (scoring 18 of his 32 in the last eight minutes), and Odom extremely solid (17 points, 14 rebounds).”

That’s what I wrote in Volume 1 of this adventure after the Lakers polished off the Denver Nuggets 128-114 in Game 1 of their first round series almost two months ago. I had no idea how far The Lake Show would go in the playoffs then – anything seemed possible with this team; an ugly first round exit or a rousing run to a title.

That Sunday afternoon in late April, after playing a splendid offensive game (but little defense – a sign of things to come), everything seemed possible, and it looked like Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom were finally going to shed their soft, not-clutch-player labels and take their place next to Kobe as consistent stars – Kobe, of course, always doing the heavy lifting, closing out games and such.

Sadly, as beautiful as it started, the Lakers postseason journey came to an equally ugly end, a 131-92 drubbing that was truly fucking awful to behold.

There’s simply no way to sugarcoat it – profanity is required. Even a day removed from the embarrassment it still leaves a bad taste in your mouth. The Lakers simply did not show up in the first half and looked like they wanted to be anywhere but on the court. Their dispirited and tentative play was truly painful to witness.

LA shot just 30% from the field in the first half and coughed up 11 turnovers which led to 19 Celtics points and Boston, behind 17 points from an energetic KG and 10 points and 9 assists from Paul Pierce, closed the first half on a 26-6 run for a 58-35 halftime advantage.

Game and series over.

Diminished expectations for the franchise after the jump…

While the Celtics are obviously the better team – better overall Big Three, better defense, and better bench, the truth is that the Lakers blew a legitimate chance to steal this series had they simply played well. But say this for them, at least they were consistent; they started off with a shitty effort in Game 1 where they looked tentative and tight, and they played that way the entire series – never once stringing more than one quarter of really good basketball together, save for the first half of Game 4. Of course, that was before then choking away the 24 point lead they had accrued in those two brilliant quarters and losing the game in one of the biggest collapses in playoff history.

As beautiful as the Lakers surge through the Western Conference was and as much hope as it generated, this dispassionate loss at the hands of the East’s best should raise serious questions about this Lakers team.

The Lakers’ softness and lack of defensive intensity is something that permeates the entire roster. It’s not which players are soft, but rather, which aren’t? Outside of Kobe and Fisher, the Lakers are a bunch of Twinkies who play mediocre defense – and that’s not going to change. The Lakers out shoot and out finesse people and rely on Kobe to carry them through every clutch stretch. Just adding Bynum back into the mix next year isn’t going to get the Lakers over the hump – they’re either going to have to retool their entire approach to defense and Odom is going to have to hit outside shots, or they’re going to have to retool their bench and trade Odom for a 3 who can hit the three and be a lockdown defender.

Neither scenario seems very likely.

Which means expect a run of great, 55-60 win regular seasons followed by disappointing losses in the Western Conference Finals or Finals for the next few years until Kobe’s window at a title sans Shaq finally closes.

After these disheartening Finals, those are now my expectations.

More Postcards From LA:

Postcards From LA, Vol. 1

Postcards From LA, Vol. 2

Postcards From LA, Vol. 3

Postcards From LA, Vol. 4

Postcards From LA, Vol. 5

Postcards From LA, Vol. 6

Postcards From LA, Vol. 7

Postcards From LA, Vol. 8

Postcards From LA, Vol. 9

Postcards From LA, Vol. 10

Postcards From LA, Vol. 11

Postcards From LA, Vol. 12

Postcards From LA, Vol. 13

Postcards From LA, Vol. 14

Postcards From LA, Vol. 15

Postcards From LA, Vol. 16

Postcards From LA, Vol. 17

Postcards From LA, Vol. 18

Related: Postcards from LA, Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol

6 Comments »Posted by ETB Contributor on Jun. 19, 2008 at 1:47 pm in NBA

6 Responses

great articles! too bad the lakers couldn’t pull it off…

Posted by: josh on June 19th, 2008 at 5:36 pm

I love the profanity. Just one cuss word. Yeah. Fucking bullshit game 6. I could not watch the 2nd half. What the hell is wrong with Odom? Me and any number of yahoos could say, “if i was that tall..” But jesus! It’s the finals. Jackson should have had them all watching the mean Pistons team from when Thomas was not insane. You are almost 7 feet tall. You are one of the best athletes on the planet. Its the finals. Who cares if you get a boo boo. You have months to heal. Take that ball to the basket hard! When the opposition has an easy basket coming, foul him so that he has no chance at making the shot. 2 things about this season in the NBA make me furious, and sad. First off, players rarely dunk as ferociously as they used to. It is like they are afraid of hurting their hands. Where are the Shawn Kemps? And if you know you are beat and you need to foul, don’t slap the guy on the wrist like a girl and let him continue past you. Hip check that guy. Good lord.

Venting: check.

Really though your postcards have been fun to read. I can almost feel how frustrating it must be if the Lakers were my home team. I feel your pain. You’re ok though. Me though? I still have to deal with Kev McHale.

Posted by: Jon Jon Mackey on June 19th, 2008 at 8:09 pm

If Bynum comes back perfectly healthy and gets “every fucking rebound” as he almost said on a national TV halftime interview (he swallowed the “ing” as he caught himself), the Lakers still have glaring problems. Gasol cannot really effectively guard any 4′s or 5′s. His offense looks good on a Tuesday night in February or March and his defensive liabilities are not as glaring. But he looks worse and worse in every round of the playoffs as his offense and defense progressively wilt as the physicality gets ratcheted up. Odom cannot shoot the ball outside of 10 foot range, he no longer can shoot 3′s, so he can’t play the 3 spot. Odom also has a history of choking under pressure that goes back to the 3-1 playoff lead blown to the Suns several years ago. Fisher is showing his age and his downward slope will only accelerate. Farmar is not a starting PG – he can’t even handle Cassell as effectively as Lindsey Hunter and had to be benched against Deron Williams.

Even with Bynum’s return next year, they still need to make some significant changes if they have any hope of making the NBA Finals again. And they can’t waste roster spots on the likes of Coby Karl or DJ Mbenga. I just hope that Odom and Walton are part of any trade package. Kupchak has to do a disappearing act with Karl and Mbenga, even if they have to be released outright, so the Lakers have a complete bench like the Celts.

Posted by: gurf morlix on June 19th, 2008 at 11:56 pm

HEy cheer up, the lakers had a great season (it is unbelievably hard for me to write that as i hate them with my whole heart) and were the best in a really hard western conference. and I’m glad that you are one of those people who recognize that bynum is NOT jesus (as in savior for all that is wrong). hell, he’s really inexperienced, and is after surgeries… a few players returned after those totally healthy (expect of course our amareeeee). yes, the lakers could win it all next year. or maybe not. but they definitely need toughness, better D, and kobe has to decide whether he is kobe bryant or “the ultimate team player”. because that attitude now just sucked. he tried to change it but couldn’t because of what he did earlier in the series.

Posted by: Murcy on June 20th, 2008 at 8:24 am

great batch of articles! fun to have a fellow home-town fan writing. too bad about the loss — but it happens. they didn’t show up, so they don’t deserve it. next year will be interesting, for a lot of these play off teams.

Posted by: c.c on June 20th, 2008 at 12:39 pm

the game 4 i believe was the turning point because they blew a big fucking lead.. well, another postcard, man you’ve got great postcards here

Posted by: Melvin on June 22nd, 2008 at 6:34 pm

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