It’s a bit silly to call any game “must win” when the opportunity to continue to play exists, even if you lose. No, game two against the Portland Trailblazers was not a “must win” game for the Los Angeles Lakers, but it was a game they needed to win. Most obviously, because another loss to Portland would put the Lakers in a 2-0 hole in a best of seven series. Certainly not an ideal situation. They also needed to win to silence the critics. The Lakers, being the Lakers – one of the most celebrated franchises in the history of the Association – are generally under much more scrutiny than most other franchises.
Players will no doubt say they drown the negativity out, but today it’s harder and harder to do that. From Twitter and Instagram feeds to non other than Charles Barkley proclaiming that the Blazers would sweep the Lakers, the negativity is everywhere. So, ya, this game was important for the Lakers. They needed to answer and answer in a big way.
They did just that!
It was really a dominate performance. Damian Lillard summed the game up by saying, “We got out butts kicked” Ya, they did. The Blazers only led twice, early in the game and then it was short-lived and only by 2 points. The Lakers biggest lead was a whopping 33 points. Most of the third and all of the final quarter were essentially garbage time with the victory no longer in doubt. This was a massacre and yet, it wasn’t really all that impressive a performance by the Lakers.
That fact should scare the Blazers and everyone else still playing in the Association. The truth is that the Lakers played a mostly average game. These are their averages, as a team, in some key areas:
- FG% – 48%
- 3P% – 35%
- FT% – 73%
- Rbs – 46
- Ast – 25
- Stl – 9
Now, compare those numbers to what they did to the Blazers on Thursday night:
- FG% – 48%
- 3P% – 37%
- FT% – 90%
- Rbs – 50
- Ast – 26
- Stl – 9
Yes, this was a dominate win for the Lakers, there is no denying that. But, when you look at the numbers it becomes clear that they didn’t do anything out of the ordinary. In short, the Lakers played like they have all season. The result was a dominate win. After the very first preseason game this season, something that feels like years ago, the Lakers social media team posted something that might have then regretted.
There really is a lot wrong with that tweet. When it posted the Lakers franchise had not been to the playoffs in seven seasons. They were playing a very bad Golden State Warriors team. And, oh yeah, it was a meaningless pre-season game. For better or worse, the Lakers were mocked. The Sacramento Kings, of all teams, took a shot at the Lakers with this tweet after a pre-season victory against a team from the Australian National Basketball League, or NBL:
I mean, the Lakers had it coming.
But, now, the NBA really does need to be on notice. Now, the games matter. Now, the teams the Lakers are playing are actually good. Now, things are different. And with that spotlight on this team they dominated a team playing very average, for them, basketball. If they were right to not heed the warning then, the NBA would be foolish to ignore it now. This Lakers team is scary good, even when they are just average.
Consider this your warning NBA.