Matter of perspective
The Lakers were blown out by Oklahoma City, but Houston brings big picture into focus
OK, Lakers fans, take a deep breath. I know that's hard to do sometimes when your opinion of the Lakers changes from one possession to the next, but you'll have to trust me on this one -- this team is going to be fine.
I know what you're thinking. How can everything be fine after the Lakers suffered perhaps their most embarrassing loss in two years at the hands of the upstart Oklahoma City Thunder, losing 91-75 and trailing by as many as 33 points in the fourth quarter.
Maybe it's because I remember last season and how the Lakers played against a certain ragtag team in Houston, playing without Tracy McGrady, Yao Ming and Dikembe Mutombo. That squad not only took the Lakers to seven games but embarrassed them twice when the Lakers essentially had a chance to close out the series.
You remember those games don't you? You remember the Lakers going into Game 4 in Houston with a chance to take a 3-1 series lead back home, and trailing by as many as 29 in the second half before making the final score -- 99-87 -- somewhat respectable in garbage time. You remember the Lakers going into Game 6 in Houston with a chance to close out the series before quickly falling behind 17-1 and finally losing 95-80.
While we're jogging down memory lane, how about the Lakers falling behind the Nuggets by 22 points in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals before losing 120-101, blowing a chance to take a 3-1 series lead back to Los Angeles.
The moral of the story is blowouts happen. Not just in the regular season but even in the mystical playoffs, which the Lakers keep pointing to as this beacon of salvation where they will finally flip the switch and play consistently good basketball.
It's not going to happen and you know what? That's OK.
Most championship teams suffer an embarrassing loss or three during the playoffs on their way to ultimately holding the Larry O'Brien trophy in June, and the Lakers are no exception.
Does anyone still remember Phil Jackson's first championship team in Los Angeles way back in 2000? That team lost to Portland by 29 in Los Angeles in the second game of the Western Conference finals. A few weeks later they went on to lose by 33 to Indiana in Game 5 of the NBA Finals with a chance to win the championship.
Maybe that's why most of the Lakers were so blasé after the embarrassing loss to the Thunder. No one more so than Ron Artest, who pretended he was suffering from amnesia when asked about the game before offering some perspective as a player who was on the Rockets team that took the Lakers the distance last season.
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"I've been through things like this already," Artest said. "Last year when I was with the Rockets we lost to the Lakers all four times in the regular season and when the playoffs came we took them to seven. Things happen. We have some losses this season but the playoffs are coming up and we're going to beat up on a few teams."
When Pau Gasol was asked if the Lakers' loss meant anything more than blip in the season, perhaps an indication of bigger problems for the team, he shook his head.
"We really don't have to make a huge deal about it if we're able to bounce back," Gasol said. "We just got outplayed by a team that's playing really good at home. I don't want to search too deep into it because there's nothing to search for."
Kobe Bryant, who had eight turnovers in the first half and finished with 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting, offered up quick, one-sentence answers to most of the questions thrown at him after the loss. He responded to one about being caught up in a battle with Kevin Durant as a "silly question" and shrugged his shoulders to another that suggested Bryant's bad night was the result of the defensive efforts of Thabo Sefolosha. "Sure," Bryant said as he rolled his eyes.
The Lakers know it's a long season and they know they're going to have bad nights like the one they had in Oklahoma City. And despite continuously pointing to the playoffs as the "real season," the postseason will be just as much of a grind potentially filled with its fair share of blowouts, as well. The important thing to remember is none of it really matters unless that loss comes in a decisive playoff game and the Lakers are far from being in that position.
No team is a better reminder of that for the Lakers than the Rockets, who beat the Lakers in Los Angeles and blew them out twice in Houston and had nothing but an early exit in the playoffs to show for it.
Arash Markazi is a columnist at ESPNLosAngeles.com