Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Lakers' Upset of Warriors Means Nothing

Whoa Laker fans, Whoa!

You're reading a lot into their 115-105 upset of the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday. Yes it was the shocker of the NBA season. How often do you see one of the worst teams clobbering the best? But the Lakers didn't suddenly morph into the San Antonio Spurs. They're still a crummy team boasting a lone star--Kobe Bryant.

Few are looking at what really happened. This, for the Warriors, was the ultimate trap game. For them, the big game is the Christmas night national TV game, the NBA's showcase event, against their hated rivals, the rugged Clippers, in LA's Staples Center. The Tuesday Lakers game? A mere afterthought. Normally, the Lakers couldn't even seriously challenge the Warriors' second unit. As a road team, Golden State was a whopping 11-point favorite.

The big story of the game was that Lakers' coach Byron Scott had finally decided to rest Kobe who, lately, seemed to be suffering from fatigue. So the Warriors didn't even have to contend with the Lakers' best player. Minus Kobe, the consensus was that the Lakers were dead meat in that game. The Warriors shared that attitude despite, according to several sources, Warrior coach Steve Kerr's relentless efforts to convince his players that they couldn't relax, that they were walking into a buzz saw.

Kerr was on the money.

Treating it like an exhibition game, the Warriors' players had their heads in the clouds, bringing only their C game. They weren't mentally ready to play. They thought a casual effort was enough. It wasn't. Any coach will tell you that shifting gears during a game, from lackadaisical to intense, is nearly impossible. Once you go in mentally unprepared you're stuck with that attitude.

What the Warriors didn't count on was that the Lakers were sky high, determined to make a statement that they could be very competitive without Bryant. Usually he hogs the ball, forcing his teammates to stand around and watch him work for shots, which he usually doesn't make. So the first time this season he sits out a game they were anxious to show how they could play without him. The Lakers turned into a textbook team-game unit, passing constantly and sharply and waiting for the best open shot. Playing Spurs-style ball, they were able to bury a lazy Warrior team that was looking ahead to the Clippers.

But that's something that works just once. When Kobe returns, his teammates will, no doubt, retreat into their shell and passively defer to him. Once again, they will stand around and watch him work, watch him be his old selfish self. Also, opposing coaches, from scouring film of this game, will know what to expect when Kobe sits out games and how to combat the Kobe-less Lakers. They won't surprise any team again.

In other words, Laker fans, Expect your team to slink, rather quickly, back into mediocrity.
Tough, new, winning Lakers? No way.