“The Los Angeles Lakers are just 12 wins away from reaching their goal of winning the NBA championship!”
So said the one of the Lakers’ radio announcer, moments after Los Angeles bundled out the Utah Jazz in Game 5 (107-96) at the Staples Center to advance to the second round via a 4-1 series clincher.
While the 4-1 series win appears like the Lakers dominated the injury-riddled Jazz, each game showed some chink in LA’s seemingly invincible armor.
Lakers forward Trevor Ariza was more specific.
“We’re happy that we got the win but, but I don’t think we’re happy about how we won (the series) so we have to pay attention and stay focused on closing games out,” Lakers forward Trevor Ariza said.
Ariza’s right. Closing out games was certainly some kind of a problem, especially with the way Game 5 ended.
Leading by 22 points midway in the third period, the game appeared under wraps, until the Lakers went back to their relaxed plays, allowing the Jazz to creep within 89-95 under four minutes left to play.
Now, if I’m covering the NBA Playoffs as a reporter, I only have one simple question for LA coach Phil Jackson–What creative ways will he do to keep the Lakers from repeating the complacent ways they had in the Utah series?
Maybe Kobe Bryant and Co. thinks the Lakers could simply bowl it over the opposition considering that they won 65 games during the regular season, the third best winning record in franchise history.
Challenging a talent-laden team like LA will surely be a huge, huge task for Jackson, especially since the Lakers are holding the home court advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs.
And whether it’s Houston or Portland come the second round series in the West, there’s no way they could brush off the Rockets or the Blazers.
For now, LA’s journey for the elusive NBA crown remains a considerable distance. Only time will tell whether the Lakers are learning some valuable lessons from the past.