The truth truly hurts! The Los Angeles Lakers are out of contention, swept, 4-0, by the very versatile and skilled Denver Nuggets in the West Conference Finals.
Personally, I did not think the Lakers would make it to the NBA Finals. LA was too dependent on its superstars. But the fan in me kept hoping that the Lakers could duplicate the Bubble winning run, or at least win one game in the Best-of-7 series. My hopes were flushed down the sewers though. I was bitten by the reality; the Lakers were no match for the Nuggets. How could I think that the Lakers could beat the league’s best team?
I was hoping Darvin Ham’s coaching brilliance can make the same exciting run for the LakeShow like the First Round and Second Round. That LeBron James still has what it takes to lead the Lakers to the NBA Finals, that Anthony Davis is still the best big man in the league, and Austin Reaves, Rui Hachimura, Lonnie Walker IV, D’Angelo Russel, and Dennis Schroder can contribute heavily on both offense and defense. But the Nuggets are not Memphis Grizzlies or Golden State Warriors, in fact they are bigger and quicker than the Lakers. Bigger, younger, and hungrier!
Michael Malone has a taller and bigger front line than Los Angeles. On the fateful Game 4 last May 23 (PH time), Malone used only seven players rotation. Mainly, its starters center Nikola Jokic (6-11, 128kgs), small forward Michael Porter Jr. (6-10, 98kgs), point guard Jamal Murray (6-4, 94kgs), power forward Aaron Gordon (6-8, 106kgs) and shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (6-5, 92kgs). Coming off the bench were Bruce Brown (6-5, 91kgs), and Jeff Green (6-8, 106kgs).
In the WCF, Jokic, a two-time MVP awardee has an average of 27.8 points, 14.5 rebounds, 11.8 assists in four games. Murray was even deadlier as he normed contributed 32.5 points. He easily broke the defense of the Lakers.
Denver turned to Murray for the needed basket. He is too much for Schroder and Russel. Nobody from the Lakers side could match his skills and athleticism. Murray was a mean scoring machine.
Porter, Gordon, and Pope were also contributing heavily on scoring and defense.
I strongly believed, the way Denver played, they have a good shot at winning the NBA title this year.
What went wrong with the Lakers, especially in Game 4 where they were leading by 15 at the half? There were only two sensible answers that I can surmise – LeBron was very tired down the stretch. He played the entire 48-minute game. Maybe the Lakers coaching staff forgot that he is already 38-years old. In basketball parlance, LeBron is old. And Davis? He was inconsistent. He failed to make his presence felt in the series. If he does, it was not enough!
But if any consolation, reaching the WCF is already an achievement for the Lakers.
Both LeBron and Davis were playing through injuries. I was really surprised that none of them were seated out in any of the Lakers post season games. Give credit to the personal trainers of the Lakers who managed to keep James and AD from missing a game in the playoffs.
And take also into consideration that the current Lakers rooster was assembled only after the trade deadline. Making it to the playoffs is already an achievement for a team that has more losses than wins at the halftime break.
With its season over, the Lakers front office should now evaluate its rooster. They should get rid of the players who could not contribute and replenish the line-up with youngbloods who are ready for the challenge.