Thursday, May 05, 2011

05/05 (Lakers Done?) Quickie

A Top 3 moment in Daily Quickie history was the "Two words: It's. Over." after Game 3 of the 2004 ALCS. It was on the front page of the morning after. I was spectacularly wrong (as was everyone else, of course).

The big question this morning is whether the Lakers deserve an "It's. Over." moment. Are they done? Down 2-0 after two games in LA? Needing to win 4 of the next 5, which would include at least 2 of 3 on the road in Dallas to a Mavs team that has proven itself better in nearly ever way?

This is entirely different from the Celtics being down 2-0 after two games in Miami -- it is entirely reasonable that the Celtics could win the next two games in Boston, evening the series and reclaiming some semblance of momentum.

But the current running through both the Lakers and the Celtics is that both look old... tired... yes: done.

I didn't think the Mavs would be the ones to knock off the Lakers, but it certainly feels like we're on that brink.

Typically, I default to the old '95 Rockets "Never underestimate the heart of a champion" thing. It is perhaps my biggest blind spot as a pundit and fan.

But in this case, it is hard not to believe what my eyes are seeing: The two-time defending champs, reeling. It was going to happen at some point. I thought it would happen after this year.

In the end, the top of the NBA is simply too good for a team -- no matter how title-experienced -- to "turn it on" when it matters most against a similarly elite team, at least not in a way that can net you 4 wins in 5 games when home-court advantage is a distant memory.

The Lakers are done, and it is happening so fast and so relatively unexpectedly that I don't think fans are quite ready for it. But it's coming.


Speaking of done: The Capitals. It's not just that they lost in the conference semifinals -- well short of the Stanley Cup finals, let alone a championship -- but that they were swept out, as ignominious an ending as there is. It is even worse than losing a 3-1 series lead and falling in 7 games.

The Capitals have reached that place -- perhaps the most favorite place in Quickie mythology: "Championship or bust." Title or failure. It is so simple and so binary and so much higher stakes than so many teams and fans can relate to.

The particular twist the Caps put on it is that they perennially underachieve. Every year, everyone thinks this time will be different. Every year, the result is the same. This year was supposed to be different -- aren't they all?

Playoffs in basketball and hockey aren't set up for one-time quirkiness, like the NCAA Tournament or college football schedule. Oh, sure, you can have the "hot goalie" theory, but if you lose 4 of 7 games, that's a pretty decent sample size that the other team is better.

When you lose four straight -- 4-0 -- it is decisive as it is damning. You weren't even close to good enough. Maybe you checked out mentally. Maybe the other team was just better (or hotter).

Whatever: The Caps simply can't break through. Now, there are lots of other "title or bust" teams that struggled against a ceiling for a few years -- certainly longer than the Caps' 3-year run -- but the Caps feel particularly far from the ultimate goal. Again.

-- D.S.

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