The Los Angeles Lakers have been good all season. Since November, they haven’t fallen below the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. However, before the NBA All-Star break, there were concerns about whether or not they were legitimate title contenders.
Prior to the All-Star Break, the Lakers lost to the three teams (outside of them, of course) with the best odds to make the Finals, according to FiveThirtyEight: the Milwaukee Bucks, the LA Clippers and Philadelphia 76ers.
After the All-Star Break, the Lakers beat all three of the 76ers, Bucks and Clippers in that exact order. Granted, the 76ers were pretty beat up when the Lakers saw them, but the Bucks and Clippers were at near-full-strength, as were the Lakers.
During that three-game stretch, LeBron James averaged 29 points, 10.3 assists, 7.7 rebounds. 1.3 steals and 1.3 blocks per game. James clearly wanted to send a message to the rest of the league, and that message got to Metta World Peace.
In a recent interview with “Inside the Green Room”, World Peace said that he has James on equal footing with Giannis Antetokounmpo in the MVP race after seeing what James did after the All-Star break:
“For my MVP, I had Giannis early, then the Lakers started to play even better and more consistent — even with the injuries — so I’ve got it at a tie with LeBron and Giannis.”
But while World Peace sees James and Antetokounmpo as evenly-matched players, he thinks James and the Lakers would win in a Finals matchup with Antetokounmpo and the Bucks because of how much experience the Lakers’ roster has:
“I had the Lakers winning just because, with the Milwaukee Bucks, when they make the Finals, it’s going to be the first time that they’ve made it. Usually, when it’s the first time a great team makes it, they usually don’t win. [The Lakers] have a lot of experience, and you have a guy like Anthony Davis who’s way more experienced than Giannis. He has a little bit more experience, he needs to get a ring. So, I figure, with all those things in place, the Lakers was primed to win the Finals this year.”
To further hammer in that point, the Lakers have six players on their roster who have made the NBA Finals in their careers: James, Danny Green, Rajon Rondo, Quinn Cook, JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard. Of those six players, four of them have been on a championship team within the last five years.
That experience would definitely be a plus for the Lakers in a potential Finals series with the Bucks, but in order for it to be the difference between the two teams, they need to show the same level of competitiveness they showed in their last matchup with Milwaukee.
It’s almost impossible to stop Antetokounmpo, as evidenced by the 32 points and 11 rebounds he put up in Milwaukee’s loss in Los Angeles, but if the Lakers can contain the rest of the team, their Finals experience will shine through in key moments.