They were serious about winning after all, they were fundamentally sound all along and they were mentally and physically better than the Houston Rockets entirely. Not long after dismantling the Lakers away from the lathers of purple and gold, away from the Joker sitting on the sideline and away from the loss column, the Rockets were unbeatable, pushing the tempo, dominating boards, and destroying the Lakers, seemingly sluggish and faltered salvaging capability which embarked criticism.

For much of the series the Lakers never eluded fault, when fingers pointed at Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant for apathy in a physical series in which the Rockets could have deprived fortunate. But if the Lakers could establish clarity on what it takes to dominate as well as they have at home and in sudden death of Game 7 to finalize an eternal series and avoid a slaughtering collapse, amazingly it was when the Lakers came to life again at home with sudden death rattling their brains, sweat dripping from their heads, adrenaline rushing faster than the Rockets could compile the scoreboard and early domination.

All along, we knew the Lakers were championship caliber, before lackadaisical flaws took part in their failures to escape what became a hostile environment in Houston without two or more wins. Even though, they escaped without bruises and wearing casts on their lifeless feet as the Rockets outhustled and outplayed them in transition and brutally inside the interior at the Toyota Center. Never assumed they would force a Game 7 and never assumed the Lakers would lose badly to the Rockets, who weren’t intimidated, though they are considered powerhouses of the league. Thus, it finally comes to an end in the Lakers favor, by sending a statement to the league when they built a 28-point lead en route to an 89-70 manhandle of the Rockets and now advance to the Western Conference Finals for an epic classic with the Denver Nuggets.

For once, the Lakers weren’t embarrassed like in Games 6 and 4 when indignities remotely devoured mystique that surfaced lingering worries if dominant as portrayed. It is established after experiencing difficulties and indignities they are the team to beat, though seven games were necessary to decide fate. The Lakers underachievement and overconfidence led to the Rockets dominance and morale that prolonged the series, making it laborious for finding a cushion as the unthinkable could have dishearten the Lakers embarrassingly, an equivalent when they were ridiculously humiliated by Boston a year ago.

More than anything, fingers were pointing in several directions, some were pointed directly at Jackson. More than ever, angry faces would have ridiculed Jackson’s coaching inabilities, which sometimes makes you wonder if the team makes all the calls, waiting until the Lakers trail by double-digits before calling timeouts. Or you could point your finger at Pau Gasol for allowing Luis Scola and Chuck Hayes to soften and intimidate him inside. Oh, you can't blame them without blaming the great finisher and leader of the Lakers.

Yes, Bryant. In the series, Mr. Amazing haven’t been so amazing struggling to find rhythm, and shot poorly irregularly in the series, which usually results trouble. Even Andrew Bynum could have taken most of the blame, for persistent softness. But it was different when the Lakers closed out the biggest game of the season, in a decisive fashion getting contributions from Gasol and Bynum, two skyscrapers finally outweighing potential when it counted with their uttermost defensive effort of the postseason, of course at home. On their glamorous home floor, “MVP” chants for Kobe are louder than anywhere else, enough to bust ear drums. Jack Nicholson, a diehard Lakers devotee, and the Joker fired up the quiet crowd, automatically qualifying as the team’s cheerleader since the departure of Ronny Turiaf, a former Laker who fired up the crowd with his obnoxious towel swinging and shouts.

With all that, the Lakers can’t help but to increase intensity, feed off of the movie stars filling up courtside seats, and sexy Laker Girls echo shouts. If anything, it’s inspiring and why they are a mere 6-0 in front of Lakers faithful, but 1-3 on the road. If they expect to host a parade on Figueroa, hoist trophy and raise a banner, they will have to dominate on the road as well. And in Denver, where the next destination makes its final stop before a back-to-back trip into the Finals, understand the Lakers must overcome road catastrophes or go home.

It won’t be a warm greeting when Bryant’s name is introduce, instead inimical Denver fans will chant unpleasantly, numberless malign chants unheard in Houston and Utah. And the Nuggets are ultimately confident, believing it could dishearten the Lakers of a repeat into the Finals. They may have enough to prevail pass a team believed to be NBA’s most talented and fundamentally sound, perhaps the Nuggets are fundamentally sound and talented as well, with a powerful core of players that know there’s a rational chance they could beat presumably the league’s powerful team and visit the Finals. You can’t count them out, as in fairness the Nuggets have beaten playoff opponents by 16 points a game, and if the Lakers fail playing defense competently, then they are in trouble against a high-scoring team with Chauncey Billups, a team savor when he was acquired from Detroit for Allen Iverson.

Since joining, he has established into a team leader, changing the culture from a non-contender into a legitimate contender and could intimidate the Lakers, if Gasol and Bynum don’t dominate as big giants and defensively. Throughout a course of the series, they had softened into harmless specimen, but can’t afford to degenerate against Nene, a physical force inside or Chris Anderson, the Birdman, an energetic forward in the middle. And Kenyon Martin, a forward with a strange personality, but knows his role and imperious inside.

Yes, Gasol and Bynum have their hands full.


The Lakers finalized a long series that should have lasted only five games, or a series where they shouldn’t have had lost by a large margin. Abandoning defense allowed the Rockets to hang around, dominating Game 4 in the 118-78 Mother Day’s slaughter of the humiliating Lakers and what surprise it was without offensive forceful center Yao Ming. Yao-less no problem, though they missed his prsense, an emerging and explosive point guard Aaron Brooks led the Rockets in an up-tempo floor match, beaten Fisher each step too embarrassingly dash inside the middle and knock in outside range buckets. Shane Battier contributed in knocking down shots from beyond the arch, without the Lakers ever finding an answer to stop the bleeding.

In Game 6 the Lakers started sluggish, quickly falling to a 17-1 deficit when Scola intimidated the Lakers giants becoming the bigger giant. Yes, ugly, brutal, frighten, worrisome and humiliating. If all of those terms follow the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals, then they might want to start packing bags in advance for vacation. Or maybe not, if they build confidence from prevailing in a statement manner, though they still have to prove it on the road and another fast start, such as an 8-0 start that gave them momentum early Sunday afternoon, another matinee where purple and gold witnessed a different Laker team.

Maybe the Lakers need the white home jerseys and fans wearing purple and gold, because they play with poise and sense of urgency, missing pieces they have to translated away from the friendly Staple Center. Away from their friendly and cozy home, they are perplex and indolent. It could have been the biggest upset in NBA history, but turned into the biggest wakeup call and the biggest survival assignment for the Lakers, realistically by playing their best game in the postseason after all the back-and-forth, up-and-down outlandish weaknesses, a seesaw week when Bryant address the media at the post-game conference, saying “we’re bi-polar”.

For once, the Lakers mood was flawless, and such a demolition fans later sung goodbye songs to the Rockets. In the final minutes of a game that was out of reach, fans sung “Na, na, na, na, hey, hey, goodbye”.

Sure, rub it in.

Finally, they clicked on all cylinders when Andrew Bynum came alive, scoring 14 points, six rebounds, two blocks shots, thus far his most excellent postseason game. He received an ovation from fans, please to witness their elite center turn it up, and he responded to criticism by presenting toughness and defensive ascendancy in a game the Lakers never trailed and a game when Gasol responded with 21 points and 18 rebounds. It’s a good sign entering a new series that requires a more cogency performance, intense defense, excellent rebounding and contributions as a team. Not much of a one-on-one, face-to-face duel as Bryant frustrated and slowed down Ron Artest. Even so, last-second prayers and late-game takeovers weren't required, shooting a mere 4-for-12 and was limited to 14 points. Seems if the Lakers continue to dominate as a consistent team, less burden on Bryant's shoulders as they should still outweigh teams with the supporting cast surrounding him, unlike in recent years.

For a minute, it was worrisome and surprising, but you could still Love L.A., after all they have lived up to potential on a day it was must-needed. Maybe you could really love L.A. for the league’s most dominant team no one has seen until sudden death, a Game 7.

From here, win or go home.

It's Lakers or Denver, tough call.

Understand it should be an epic classic.


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