May 19, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant (24) gets fouled in the first half of game four in the Western Conference semi finals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs against the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE
I don't know what to tell you kiddos. Once again the Lakers gave Oklahoma City their best punch, only to watch the Thunder hang around and win the game when it mattered most, as the Thunder beat the Lakers 103-100 at the Staples Center. Like a boxer that takes an uppercut that should have put him on the canvas, the Thunder only stumbled around as their opponent let them recover by not going for the kill. And once more, Kevin Durant hit the shot that decided the game. Deja Vu? This time Kobe got the chance to respond and couldn't.
The Lakers are now down 3-1, and I don't need to tell you that only "x" amount of teams in NBA history have come back from a 3 games to 1 deficit. Considering how the Lakers have thrown away games, what is there to tell us that they could win 3 straight games against these Thunder. I'd love to have enough faith to believe it, but it seems the Lakers are more interested in placing blame. Kobe's pointing at Pau.
Arash Markazi, ESPN LA:
"It was just a bad read," Bryant said of Gasol's turnover. "It was just a bad read on Pau's part. It happens."What can't happen in Bryant's eyes, however, is Gasol being passive on offense when Oklahoma City's defense keys in on him and Andrew Bynum.
"He's just looking to swing the ball too much, he's just got to shoot it," Bryant said of Gasol. "We played pretty much the same way the entire game. The second half what they did was front Andrew, so when they front Andrew and in the fourth quarter they crowd me, the other guys have to be more aggressive, simple as that."
Pau's passively-aggressively pointing at Kobe:
Arash Markazi, ESPN LA
"It's definitely one play, one mistake, but there was a lot of mistakes in that fourth quarter and a lot of mistakes during the game," Gasol said. "Obviously if I could've gone back, maybe I could've shot it, and I would've. But it's one play -- obviously at a critical time -- but I don't feel like we lost the game on one turnover. There's plenty of bad plays or mistakes in the fourth."
This is what's it's ultimately come down to, and I'm tired of the finger pointing. None of it matters. The Lakers lost and it all starts with Kobe, who was bested by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in the biggest moment of the season. If we're going to give Kobe all the glory when the Lakers win, then he should accept the burden of blame when they lose, especially when the go down in flames. It all starts and ends with Kobe, and it's now the beginning of the end of the Kobe/Pau Lakers. Kobe is right about Pau, but Pau isn't wrong either. There were other options than Pau, namely Andrew Bynum, who was playing well and ignored down the stretch. That wasn't Pau's fault, Kobe. There's blame all-around, just be the captain and go down with the ship when you have to. Be the leader and accept responsibility, not just the glory. Too bad it's ending like this. It's been one hell of a ride.
Kevin Ding, The OC Register:
Bryant has tired to having to prop Gasol up time and again. Bryant did it often last season in pursuit of a third consecutive title on a bad knee and before Bynum was ready, offering the compelling Natalie Portman-inspired narrative that Gasol is too often the "white swan" instead of the "black swan." Like the movie, it didn't end well.
This season, Bryant has still believed that Gasol can come through when it matters most. Bryant's public request that the Lakers stop dangling Gasol in the trade market was him believing Gasol needed that support to persevere. When I was comparing the very night before the March trade deadline the emerging Bynum and Bryant to the regular one-two punch of Shaquille O'Neal and Bryant, it was Bryant who digressed to say: "We still have Pau."
Even though Gasol has been loyal and tried to stay invested in the Lakers after the aborted preseason trade for Chris Paul, it hasn't been the same. And effective or not, no matter how much unwavering respect he has for Bryant, Gasol has also developed his own pocket of resentment for all of Kobe's high horsing, fire breathing and string pulling in recent years.
The show's over folks. Prepare to say your good-byes to these Lakers as you knew them. The Thunder are ready to win while the Lakers are stuck pointing fingers. Oklahoma City is going to be great for the NBA. They have great players, great management, a loyal, and loud fan base, and they genuinely love to play basketball. They just need to get rid of those shitty logos and uniforms. Prepare for the future, boys and girls. Kobe even compared them to himself (what's new?):
Ramona Shelburne, ESPN LA:
"These guys are long and athletic and tough. They grew up watching me. They have the same mentality that I do," Bryant said in a reflective moment long after the Los Angeles Lakers held off the Thunder 99-96 in Game 3 of this taut Western Conference second-round series. He laughed a little, but only because the Lakers had survived this one.Kobe Bryant willed the Lakers to a Game 3 win and helped matters by making all 18 of his free throws.
"It's like I'm playing a mirror image of myself in [Russell] Westbrook, [James] Harden and [Kevin] Durant. It's like, s---. You've just got to dig deep and fight 'em back."
Let's try to keep the faith, but please make sure you have big shovel, as the Lakers no longer believe in each other. We're going to be digging pretty deep for this one. Please keep it together for Game 5, Lakers. Anything left?