"All good things must come to an end...or else they wouldn't end." - Brian Flanagan, Cocktail
Turn out the lights, the party's over.
I couldn't have been the only one that saw this game coming though. The signs were there. After losing Game 3 despite holding an eight point lead late in the game, the Lakers coaches and players looked mentally and emotionally spent. Phil Jackson and his assistants were as vocal and demonstrative as they'd ever been during time outs, and nothing seemed to work. After Game 3 the key players seemingly looked forward and saw the long road ahead of them, then looked back and saw the exhausting road behind them (a road that included 3 straight finals, 2 straight championships, olympic and FIBA play; almost a full season of extra play with nearly no time off), and decided that they had gone far enough.
Beyond the in-game statistics or the late game ejections, we're left with a more visceral reaction to this game and this series. Fans react more to watching the team and how it plays rather than analyzing the boxscore. Fans often see and react to the games in a very different way than media analysts. This one hurt deep down because it just never seemed like the desire was fully operational. We know that a player should want to win the game, should want to play together as a team with their teammates, should do everything they can to win one more championship for their retiring coach. But it never seemed like this team had enough desire to win it all.
The expectations were high for this Lakers team. Winning the championship, Kobe tying MJ for the number of rings, and sending Phil Jackson off into the sunset with one more three peat all seemed like foregone conclusions. Maybe we had forgotten that championships don't come in threes, or that the best team on paper doesn't always win the game or the series. But nevertheless, this one hurts. The happy ending that could've, probably should've happened, did not.
When the dust settles, the media will try to turn this into the early 2000s soap opera Lakers. Stories will continue to appear about a rift between Kobe and Pau, Gasol's relationship status, over-analyzing this last loss, and criticizing the way the season ended and the end of Phil Jackson's career.
As always with the Lakers, nothing is ever as dramatic as it seems. The Odom and Bynum fouls, although certainly uncalled for, seemed more like hard fouls gone awry than "the worst foul/cheap shot of all time". The Kobe/Pau "feud" will prove to be fruitless, and when the criticisms fade only a few truths will remain. We're a team without a season, and without a coach. We're back to being just like every other team that doesn't win the championship. We'll see what the future brings for this Lakers team as we know it, but for now, we might as well be the Spurs.
- Mark Slattery
ChatSports.com WriterBack to the Los Angeles Lakers Newsfeed