Mission accomplished, well, to some extent.

After all, devoted fans can hoist purple and gold flags on vehicles, and the franchise can hoist another Western Conference title banner in the rafters at Staples Center as the Lakers return to the NBA Finals for the second straight season in 30 Final appearances. The last few weeks were elusive, which confounded our senses in believing they were NBA’s most talented team in relatively a peculiar journey that was nerve-racking, insane and seemingly unnecessary. Considering the Lakers were this year’s team to beat, purple and gold scenes here forced fans to react nervously, unable to understand if they just weren’t playing with enough toughness or even championship destined.

Instead it caused fans to sustain everlasting headaches, and panic mightily about the Lakers futility. Instead of giving credit, syndicated radio talk show host, criticized and pointed fingers at either wannabe guru Phil Jackson, Lamar Odom or Andrew Bynum when entirely everyone merited blame for inadequate stumbles of unforeseen fiascoes. With abysmal relapses in the Houston series criticism surfaced about the Lakers toughness, which suddenly mutated into softness in a series that never should have prolonged to a Game 7. Immediately following a game-clinching win at home, more objections generated about road woes, and particularly at Denver where the Nuggets were efficient as the Lakers altered from the league’s most talented into league’s most dysfunctional. It was as if solving an enigmatic crossword puzzle, so erratic finally becoming confusing in which it forced you to surrender.

Same goes for the Lakers, who ambiguous approach reached a point of dubious embitterment, but even if it was an unfathomable team, still they are NBA’s most talented team when players know their roles and plays with awareness and intensity.

For once, the Lakers didn’t have tedious riddles for us to solve in front of a hostile crowd at Pepsi Center in Denver. To make us believe, the Lakers played as if they are starving for a title, finally winning a meaningful game on the road in fact twice a series where they were supposed to encounter a formidable challenge against the much-matured Nuggets. Even though home court advantage accommodated positive benefits, winning at least one game in the Mile High City was decisive, a dilemma that defamed identity in previous series. They knew the magnitude of accumulating enough wins in the regular-season to own control of fate at home in the event of a Game 7, used to their advantage in the last series against Houston in front of the celebs under the lights in Hollywood. It seems they never disappoint celebs, even non-celebs enjoying the energized Lakers. Wearing dark shades looking at the action close and personal is always Jack Nicholson, who encourages toughness. And behind the court are Laker Girls, the team’s mascot, galvanizing the physical-minded Lakers in front of the delirious crowd. None of those frenzied enthusiasts were elements in the biggest win of the year, coming in a hostile environment where they were problematic and abstruse.

Props to the Lakers for winning the biggest game in an unfriendly territory, and kudos confirming that they can be the most dominant heavyweights in any giving situation, illustrating they are the greatest team, a supreme threat whenever they orchestrate toughness that matches psyche. But in the playoffs, their psyche vanished turning into embarrassing moments easily erasing after reaching a traditional standard in returning to the Finals. For a second time, the Lakers are granted with a noble prize after manhandling the Nuggets in a 119-92 victory to capture the NBA Western Conference championship in six games, when mostly we assumed that this series was going to seven games because of unsteadiness. In disarray, the Lakers developed pondering concepts on a shaky status, and whether they could assemble enough fortitude to be considered champs. Remember, the Nuggets were supposed to be their biggest threat, but as it unfolded, the Rockets were the bigger threats, routing them unimaginably in two games.

Remember, many lost confidence saying the Lakers weren’t going to be able to escape Denver without a victory? Well, they managed to pull off two crucial wins, more victories on the road than in prior series were they only managed winning one game. Remember, when many said Jackson couldn’t win without longtime assistant Tex Winter alongside? Well, he managed to avoid further criticism. Remember, when many accused Bryant for collapses in the Houston series, failing to accelerate in the leadership role and close out games effectively? Well, it wasn’t a problem in the finale of a series that Bryant put to rest with a 35 point, 10 assists showpiece. But more convincingly and impressively, was the shaky supporting cast mustering consciousness to inhibit any chances of the Nuggets stealing the most vital one in Los Angeles.

As they had an abysmal shooting night, troubles draining significant shots, the Lakers clicked on all cylinders, burying jumpers to silence critics of any negativity circulating around town. For weeks, people talked wondering about their up and down, back and forth sequence of feebleness and ignominy. Not much talk goes on now after the Lakers clinched a berth to the finals, and will await the winner of the Eastern Conference Finals between Orlando and Cleveland. In the meantime, either team shouldn’t matter as the Lakers are experienced from one year ago when they advanced to the Finals surprisingly before humiliated, bruised and kicked aside by Boston. Sure, this time initiative plans is redeeming a bitter loss and rehabilitating a status among critics, but more than anything winning a title.

After coming up short, the Lakers are favored to whichever team advances in the East, partly because of experience, but also having the killer instinct and closer, Bryant. At the right time, he came to life and completed a six game series, alongside a sturdy supporting cast for survival. Providing post presence has been the much-improved Pau Gasol, who entered the postseason with a huge burden after labeled as the softest seven-footer. He increasingly adjusted his impotent mannerism, and now is a reliable resource. One year makes a difference on Gasol’s tough-minded approach, fortifying lots of energy and poise. If the Lakers face the Magic, who are only one win away from clinching its first playoff berth since 1995, Gasol will have to continue his aggressive attack at the rim and incredible inside presence. Finishing a series with 20 points, 22 rebounds, was a solid performance by the seven-footer who quickly has made progress.

Now, it's interesting to see how well he reacts in a seven-footers duel with powerful menace, Dwight Howard, who’s a factor in the Magic’s unforeseen 3-2 lead of the Cavs, shocking LeBron James and spoiling the marketing exhibit of a Kobe-LeBron overhyped classical. Having an assumption the Lakers are matchless whenever Lamar Odom fiercely reinforces intensity, is rigorous and usually transpires when he produces 20 points, 12 rebounds. In a game where assistance was needed, Trevor Ariza settled for 17 points, blossomed efficiently from beyond the arch and shot a mere 3-for-4, brilliant competence of assisting and saving Bryant of needing IVs, like in Game 3 when he was weary and barely could breathe following an exhausted scoring masterpiece. Having multiple teammates are important, if the Lakers want to win.

It was a team comprising of champs, defeating the Nuggets without needing seven games determining fate. For once, they defined golden standards, a model they’ll have to embody against the Magic or Cavs. But either way, the Lakers stands as the best team, seeking one thing a championship, a prize agonizingly missed after been cut short a year ago. Now it seems there won’t be any downfalls, and seems the Lakers have figured it out surviving a journey still undone.

Maybe it was the last of humiliating letdowns. Maybe the Lakers are for real, getting a second taste of the pre-trophy before the big one is given. Maybe they are NBA’s most talented team.


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