Over the last several weeks, the Los Angeles Lakers have been increasingly considered by many to be a legitimate championship contender.
They had the NBA’s second-best regular season record after the All-Star break, as well as one of the league’s best defenses during that span, and they carried that momentum into the first round of the playoffs by decimating the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 6 by 40 points.
However, every now and then, the Lakers have put forth a dud in games they could’ve or should’ve won.
It happened a few times in the regular season after the trade deadline against teams such as the Chicago Bulls, Minnesota Timberwolves and Houston Rockets, not to mention in a loss to the Dallas Mavericks on March 17 in which they led by four points in the waning seconds.
After taking Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals on Tuesday against the Golden State Warriors, it happened again, and it’s getting to the point where it could single-handedly prevent them from winning the NBA championship this year.
It's not the fact that the Lakers lost, but how they lost
It would’ve been completely understandable and even OK for the Lakers to drop Game 2 to Golden State. It was a virtual must-win game for it, and it was a game they didn’t really need to win.
But the Lakers didn’t just lose — they lost in blowout fashion. They got outscored 84-47 in the second and third quarters on Thursday, and they ended up falling by a final score of 127-100. Once they fell behind by a large margin in the third period, they failed to fight back, almost as if they were perfectly OK with going down big because they had already stolen home-court advantage.
In particular, Anthony Davis followed up a historically dominant Game 1 performance with a historically lackluster and unacceptable Game 2 clunker, scoring just 11 points and attempting only 11 shots in 33 minutes.
The Warriors, who have won four of the last eight Larry O’Brien trophies, are a team Los Angeles cannot give any victories to. They know how to win big games, and they have plenty of firepower that simply cannot be contained at times, such as in Game 2 when they shot 21-42 from 3-point range.
If the Lakers are to win their 18th title this summer, they must be on point from this point on. One more extended lapse could very well mean an unpleasant summer for them.