That’s right, the team with the best record in the vaunted Western Conference trots out a bunch of namby pambies every night. Being pushed to a Game 7 against the Rockets? Are you kidding me?! Yeah, that would be totally justifiable if Houston had Tracy McGrady and his career playoff averages of 28.5 PPG, 6.9 RPG, and 6.2 APG. But he hasn’t picked up a basketball since February.
It would even be OK for the Lakers to struggle against the Rockets without McGrady because Houston also happens to have the best center in the league right now. Yao Ming doesn’t just carve up opposing defenses with his versatile offensive game, he dominates the paint, protects the basket, and can hit free throws to boot. Oh, but wait a minute, he broke his foot during Game 3. That’s when the Lakers could’ve taken hold of the series and started prepping for the Nuggets. Instead, the Lakers have gone 1-2 against the Rockets without their seven-time All-Star center.
Still, you have to prepare for the Rockets other star, Ron Artest. Except for the fact that he has scored 14 or fewer points (shooting a combined 14 for 51 from the field) during the last three games. Again, the Rockets won two of those games.
So what’s happening here? Why are the Lakers losing?
Because they don’t have the toughness to persevere in the playoffs. Los Angeles has Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, and Lamar Odom. None of them is under 6’10”. In Game 6, the Rockets tallest starter was Luis Scola. And he’s 6’9”. Now’s a good time to mention that the Rockets have outrebounded the Lakers in this series.
Toughness. Every championship team needs it. The Lakers don’t have it. Where does that start? At the top. Kobe Bryant has only attempted eight more free throws than three pointers in this series. Go to the hole, Kobe, challenge the depleted Rockets front line. Show your teammates the type of aggressive play that is required to win big games in the post-season. Lead by example.
I’ve never worried about Kobe’s toughness or competitive spirit before. Now I’m worried. With all the talent on the Lakers roster, it shouldn’t take a monster game from last year’s MVP to knock off the depleted Rockets. Then again, in a Game 7 there is no margin for error. If Kobe can’t get his teammates to toughen up, he’ll have to do it himself. Otherwise, it’s going to be a long off-season in Lakerland.