By Jason Wojciechowski on June 15, 2008 at 3:16 AM
I wrote this on my iPhone in the airport (in L.A., waiting for a flight to, of all places, Boston) on Thursday night, but haven't had a chance to post it until now.
I'm incredibly upset right now. A combination of ineptitude and a historic official screw job have conspired to end the Lakers' season in its tracks. Coming into this series, I thought the Lakers were the far superior team. They have more talent, the best player on the floor would be theirs, they'd risen to the top of a historically great Western conference, winning nearly as many games as Boston did without the benefit of playing in a conference with only five or so good teams, they'd beaten a very good San Antonio team in five games, a Denver team that might have been the best eight seed ever in four, and a Utah team that matched up well with them and plays better at home than almost anyone in six, all while watching Boston struggle past a terrible Atlanta team and a one-man Cleveland squad.
All signs pointed to a five-game win. Now it looks like a five-game loss. The Lakers will likely be deflated for Game Five, and I wouldn't be surprised by, nor would I particularly care about, a seriously lackluster effort. If Kobe puts the team on his back and extends the season, then great: make it a six-game loss. Either way, all the hard work of everyone involved has been tossed away through a combination of terribly timed poor play and a refereeing job I'm going to be talking about six years from now the way Sacramento fans still think about 2002.
It's all just so hard to believe. How do you blow a twenty-one point first quarter lead? At home? To a team whose idea of offensive sets is "dribble around a lot and throw up a jumper with three left on the shot clock"? To a team that still, 106 games into the season, hasn't worked out its rotation? To a team whose second- best benchy is thug extraordinaire PJ Brown? It just mystifies me. And now we have to go through a whole other season, with the West probably just as tough, trying to figure out how to play Bynum and Pau together, to try to win it all. I think the Lakers can do it, but knowing that, on paper as it were, and actually avoiding the injuries etc that happen are two different things. Like those 2002 Kings, this may have been the chance.