Game 6 deserves a reaction.
Game 4 had me spitting venom at my own team, blasting them for their effort, questioning not only whether they would win a championship, but whether I would even feel good about it if they did. What did that team do for an encore? A win at home by 40, followed by a road loss by 15 that started out worse than the previously mentioned debacle.
If Game 4 deserved a reaction, this game definitely deserves one. So here it is.
The better team won.
This game was not about what the Lakers didn’t bring to the table. It was about what Houston did bring. Game 6 was much more similar to Game 1 than Game 4. Outside of a choice few (I’m shaking my fist at you, Pau Gasol’s first half), the Lakers played hard. The defense was not good, but it wasn’t for lack of effort. Houston simply executed their offensive game plan well and made adjustments to what the Lakers did to stop it in Game 5, and when good ball movement resulted in an open outside shot, that shot went in. The offense was terrible, but it wasn’t because of poor energy. You don’t get 15 offensive rebounds by not trying. The Lakers execution on offense was horrific, but Houston played great defense and didn’t let the Lakers do the things on offense that they wanted to do. And, when the Lakers put up open outside shots, they didn’t fall. This wasn’t about one team showing up and another team not showing up. This was about a team getting beat.
If you want to blast the Lakers for playing as stupid a game as I’ve seen, from the top down, go ahead. Phil Jackson coached the game stupid, with absolutely ridiculous rotations and lineups. The players played the game stupid (I think Fisher just missed another 22 footer with 17 seconds on the shot clock). But I gave at the altar. This time, I choose to give Houston some fucking credit. The credit they deserved for game 4, but couldn’t get because the Lakers might as well have forfeited that game.
The Rockets are not a better team than the Lakers, night in and night out, especially with two max contract players riding the pine. They shouldn’t be better than the Lakers in 3 out of 6 games. I pray they won’t be better in 4-7 games. But tonight, the Lakers genuinely tried to win the game, and they failed. They went about it all wrong, they made all the wrong decisions, but they tried. So this wasn’t a Lakers loss as much as it was a Houston win. Houston won by executing down the stretch. They won because the best two big men on the floor were named Scola and Landry. They won because the Lakers have no answer for Aaron Brooks, and he was hitting some tough, tough shots down the stretch. They won because the Lakers couldn’t buy a shot, but they couldn’t buy a shot because Houston’s defense forced them into mostly bad ones. On this night, the Lakers showed up, and they just got beat
It happens. Any team will have good nights and bad nights. And when a good night for one team corresponds with a bad night for the other team, the result is pretty easy to figure. Which is what makes game 4 all that much harder to stomach. Because the Lakers have left this series and this season up to fate. They have left themselves vulnerable to the mystical power of Game 7. In case you’ve forgotten, this Lakers team hasn’t had a whole lot of success with Game 7s in the past few years.
But who knows? The Lakers should win game 7, and I personally think it will be a Game 5 repeat (not quite as pronounced, but a comfortable win.) These Lakers have been positively consistent in one aspect in the playoffs. They’ve yet to play two bad games in a row, and they’ve responded very strongly after each loss. And their title chances are no worse for the wear than before Game 6. The comparisons to last year’s Boston team, which struggled in both of the first 2 rounds of the playoffs, didn’t hold true after Game 4. That team never quit on a game. They just struggled to find themselves, and went up against some dynamic players who were unstoppable at the end of games on the road.(Don’t ask me how Joe Johnson was dynamic, but he was. I have no idea where it came from, or where it went, but he was.) But game 6 was exactly the type of game that filled Boston’s playoff run last year, and we’ve seen how little bearing that can have on how things end in the final game of the season.