Game 1 still has meaning

5 06 2009

I just came back from the gym and got caught watching ESPNEWS, per usual on a Friday evening. Some segment called Airwaves was running with one of ESPN’s many Stuart Scott-wannabes yelling — and I mean literally YELLING! — NBA Finals questions at three ESPN radio hosts from the L.A., Boston and New York markets. 

Mr. Scott-wannabe was trying to hypnotize one or all (I couldn’t be sure) of the ESPN radio guys to admit that the Lakers’ 100-75 victory over the Magic in Game 1 was a prelude of things to come. Of course, the ESPN radio guys, probably well-versed by now in ESPN studio people’s hyperbolic propaganda, wouldn’t budge. They stated Game 1’s irrelevance to the point of overstating it. 

Game 1 did, and does, matter. It matters for the simple fact that the Lakers have three games to win, to the Magic’s four. There is one more Lakers home game before the series shifts to Orlando for three straight contests, where Orlando will have such a tough time sweeping the homestand. Orlando will have to win Game 2 in Los Ang, assuming L.A. can — and should — take at least one in O-town. 

Yet by losing Game 1, the pressure has heightened for Orlando to take Game 2. So as a byproduct of future contests, Game 1 does matter. 

More importantly, the Lakers look focused. I think that if you watch a particular sport and a particular team long enough, you can get a feel for a squad’s mood. You can get a feel for whether a team is legitimately turning a corner or whether a hot streak is a mirage. I feel that the Lakers are making their third surge.

Their first was to tip off the regular season (14-1 in first 15 games), the second was a 13-1 run from late January to late February that began with the famous road trip during which Andrew Bynum hurt his knee and Kobe Bryant lit up Madison Square Garden for 61 points, and the third is right now. The Lakers played fantastic in the final two games of the Denver series — especially the series-clinching Game 6, their year’s most masterful effort — and looked dominant in Game 1.

The scares put into them by Utah, Houston (especially Houston) and Denver have toughened up a team which needed a couple serious playoff challenges to find the rough edge that had been the team’s most criticized flaw. They’ve come out of a couple elimination scenarios — traveling through a series of clouds to come upon a pristine valley with a theoretical pot of gold, if you will — to make it to the Finals, where they sit just three games from salvation. Their focus has sharpened. As a result, what we saw in Game 1 is certainly more than irrelevant. I appreciated the ESPN radio guys for not succumbing to a sky-is-falling theory for Orlando, but Game 1 meant more than “nothing,” as one of them stated. It meant the Lakers are one step ahead on their road to the NBA title.

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One response

6 06 2009
apollocreed

I’m totally shocked that ESPN blew something out of proportion. It’s just so unlike that network to do something like that.

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