Sunday, June 8, 2008

Off Topic: Investigating the mysterious disappearance of Lamar Odom

I’ve spent the past few weeks wondering what would happen when “flash” met “crash”. And now, with 2 games of the 2008 finals complete, the results are pretty much how I figured them to be. Yes, the Lakers have arguably the best player in the NBA with Kobe Bryant, but they also have Lamar Odom. Well, at least they had Odom, until the championship series began.

In typical Odom fashion, he’s disappeared in the biggest games. From the beginning of this Lakers playoff run, I’ve said repeatedly that the Lakers would go as Odom goes, and that’s becoming true to the facts. The West was regarded as the more difficult road to the NBA finals, based on team records, but when you look at the actual match ups, the physical “old school” type of play by the Eastern teams launched the Celtics into the finals as the more battle tested unit.

Outside of Kobe Bryant, the stars of the Lakers' run were Odom and Gasol, along with contributions by other big men on the bench in sparse roles. Those players have become a non factor, and the Lakers find themselves headed back to Los Angeles down 2games. The Lakers cracked the century mark in game 2, against one of the league’s best defenses. But of the 102 points, Odom contributed just 10.

The Celtics front court is dominating both ends. And why shouldn’t they, since they are allowed to take defensive series off? Odom isn’t giving them anyone to guard. Odom isn’t making them work. The Celtics are not being pounded or denied layups. They appear still fresh in the 4th quarter, because Odom, Gasol, and others chose to leave their balls at home. Celtics guards are working hard, chasing the Lakers’ backcourt for 48 minutes. The backcourt alone is not going to get L.A back into the series or win this championship. They need their big men to play just that, BIG.

The Lakers have no answer for Kevin Garnett, but few in the league do. That was an obvious mismatch going in. But, there is no reason for Leon Powe (Who?), a role player, to resemble an NBA MVP on the league’s biggest stage. There’s no reason to not play physical. This is what you’ve worked hard for all season. This is the gut check, the payoff, the entire reason for your basketball existence.

I can search for reasons for the recent Lakers failures. I can jump on the L.A media bandwagon, and point out the free throw disparity, but that isn’t new. Those same types of numbers were posted in the San Antonio series, yet the Lakers prevailed. You don’t get to the free throw line in the playoffs by slicing. You get their by pounding. Flash will not beat crash in that statistic. You want to find the difference between the Lakers cruising through the West and then struggling against this Eastern opponent? Then join me in my search, and maybe together we can find Lamar Odom. We’ll just follow the trail, because we’re likely to find Paul Gasol, Ronnie Turiaf, and Luke Walton along the way.

Note: After 2 games played, my NBA Finals MVP is Paul Pierce. Garnett is having a great series, but as I said, find me someone on that Lakers squad that can guard the man or keep him off the boards. Game 3 has become a must win for Los Angeles. Lose that game, and this series is over.

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