The Laker Three-peat is a Dream
While most cocky Laker fans refuse to see the talent in this league growing elsewhere, and focus on just the "three-peat" and that the Lakers regular season woes are just them not caring about the regular season and are waiting until "June". Heck, even Phil Jackson asked reporters, "Is it June?" when asked about the Laker woes. It also appears that LeBron James and the Heat are taking this path as well, who continuously claim that they're saving their best basketball until March and April, when the playoffs begin.
But, in my opinion at least, I think Phil Jackson will be on the warm beaches of California, sipping on a cold beverage in some swim trunks, enjoying getting a tan (he could probably use one) while reporters ask, "Okay Mr. Jackson, it's June. Why aren't the Lakers in the Finals?".
Really, do I think the Lakers have a shot? Of course they do, they are the two time defending champs, and three time defending champs of the WCF trophy. But, when we look back at those past years, did the Lakers have the same competition that awaits them this season?
The Lakers are 2 games behind the Dallas Mavericks, who has played two less games, which means they could potentially be 4 games above the Lakers. And looking at the Mavs schedule, unless they choke (which they have a tendancy of doing, seeing as their win streaks end against teams that they should be dominating), they will likely win their next 5 games, with their next "challenge" being at New Orleans on March 9th, which could be a potential playoff preivew (however, I got New Orleans being 6th behind 5th placed Portland).
The Spurs, however, are 8 games ahead of the Lakers. The Spurs have also proved that they are an elite club, who are 2-0 against the Lakers this season. All I can say, by the way the season is going, if all these teams remain healthy, the Spurs will finish 1st, the Mavs will finish 2nd, and the Lakers will finish 3rd. The only moves I see that have a possibility of moving is Dallas moves first, Spurs move 2nd, and OKC moves 3rd while Lakers move 4th. If the Lakers did move to 2nd, they get likely Denver or Portand in the first round, two teams that can give them Hell.
So, let's assume that the 1-4 seed remain the same, which they most likely will. On my previous blog, I said that Porltand will have OKC in the first round, and Hornets will have 6th seed, meaning they have the Lakers in the first round. I see Lakers wiping the floor with them. BUT, let's say that Portland gets 6th seed and goes against the Lakers (as a Blazer fan, that's the last thing I want). The Lakers will have this playoff schedule -
Portland in the first round - Lakers have HomeCourt Advantage
Mavs in the second round - Mavs have homecourt advantage
Spurs in the Western Conference Finals - Spurs have homecourt advantage
Celtics/Heat/Chicago in the Finals - (all three have higher winning percentage than the Lakers) Those teams have Homecourt Advantage.
I count out Orlando, because they seem to be degrading. Howard is getting less happy with the Team, and it was a fluke that they reached the Finals in 2009, and I really see no chance of them, as fourth seed, beating 5th seed NYK, than beating 1st seed Celtics, and than beating the Heat or Bulls. It's not going to happen, and I'd be VERY surprised if it does.
So, the Lakers would have to beat the 6th seed (if it's Denver or Portland, that could easily go to 7 games. Wednesday nights loss was a fluke, and I'm still fairly confident that the Blazers dominate the Lakers at the Rose Garden. We just missed open shots, which is why the loss was a "slip away"). They would have homecourt advantage for that series. Denver and Portland also can play an up-tempo basketball game, which they likely would. That would cause a lot of wear and tear on the Laker bigs, which is their one advantage over most teams in the league.
However, if they get the Hornets (which is likely), they likely could sweep that series, or win it in 6 games at the most. I would be surprised if New Orleans could take the Lakers to 7. They just don't have the height.
So, they pass the first round, in 5-7 games, and make their way to Dallas, who beat the 7th seed (likely Denver or Memphis). Assuming Dallas doesn't choke, they could beat the Lakers in 7. They have the bigs, and Chandler right now is a more developed player than Bynum. I could see Bynum getting into foul trouble that entire series against Chandler. Dirk would also bring Gasol out of the paint, and we all know Dirk can put up 30 a night. This series is going to 7 games if the Lakers are to win it, and they would need to win on the road inorder to win this series. Mavs would have homecourt advantage.
Next up is the Spurs, who would beat 8th place (likely Phoenix, Utah, Denver, Memphis, or the Rockets. My guess would be Phoenix or Memphis). Spurs could beat any of those teams in 4. If it's Phoenix or Denver (highly unlikely), That series could go to 4 games. But with the surprising surge of the Spurs, and Duncan likely retiring after this season (his contract ends), I don't see the Spurs sleeping on any team, especially since they know they're going against the Lakers or Mavs. The Spurs then have either OKC or Portland (assuming OKC and Portland place 4th). Honestly, there is a small chance OKC and Portland could beat the Spurs, but I bet it's highly unlikely. It's hard to predict these teams. Portland has won 5 straight at home against the Spurs. OKC fought well on Wednesday against the Spurs, but lost. Spurs have lots of experience in the playoffs. OKC has next to none except new Thunder Kendrick Perkins. Portland has a small amount of experience too. I'd pick the Spurs to beat both those series, even as a biased Portland fan.
Spurs then have the Lakers, with homecourt advantage, in the Western Conference Finals. Spurs are 2-0 against the Lakers this season, with both games being played in playoff atmospheres. Their last win was at Staples center with a last second tip-in. The series would likely go to 7, but I see the Spurs winning it.
If the Lakers did win that, and got to the Finals, they'd then have to go against the Celtics, Heat, or Bulls (my top 3 picks for the EC winners). The Heat and Celtics will likely finish with a higher record than the Lakers. The Bulls right now have 1 less win, but 2 less loses than the Lakers, so they have a higher winning percentage. If the Finals started today (and somehow the Bulls played less games than the Lakers), the Bulls would have homecourt advantage in that series. My pick would be the Celtics, who took the Lakers to 7 games, and only loss by 4 when the Lakers got the foul line, where they shot 23 more FTs than the Celtics.
So, in summary, the Lakers would have to do this....
First round - Beat the 6th seed (best chances of getting 6th seed are Portland, NOH, and DEN)
Second round - beat the Mavs without homecourt advantage.
WCF - Beat the Spurs without homecourt advantage
Finals - Beat the Celtics, Heat, or Bulls without homecourt advantage.
It's possible, and the Lakers certainly have the talent. However, that's a very hard thing to do for ANYONE. Even if a team was full of Lebrons and Prime Shaqs and prime Michael Jordans, that is a hard task to do.
My guess is that the Lakers beat the Mavs in 6 or 7 games, get to the WCF, and then lose to the Spurs in 6 games at the Staples Center, where the Spurs win their only away game in the WCF, but win all their home games.
So, is it realistic to think the Lakers have a chance to win? Is it realistic to think they have a chance to lose? All I can say is, even if I was a hardcore Laker fan, I'd feel pretty silly to start bragging about a "three-peat" that hasn't even happened yet.