All hail the King!
Is it too early to sing praises for the King of the Cage Kingdom? Some say it’s a bit early, but heck, this one’s to celebrate – however briefly – Lebron and the Lakers’ ascendance to the throne as this year’s Kings of the West. A respite of sorts before the final battle begins.
Lebron James carried the Los Angeles Lakers on his back, displaying power basketball at its fullest, to win Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals 117-107, and take the first seat to the NBA Finals. Not only did he flaunt the awesome firepower in his cage armory – from pick-and-rolls to quick transition offense to power post plays to isolations, you name it, he was simply a juggernaut who used anything and everything – plus brute force – to impose his will on the hapless Denver Nuggets team. In the end, the Nuggets could only whine, whimper and finally wilt.
King Lebron tallied 38 huge points, scoring 9 of the last 10 Laker points, often cashing in oh-so-easily on his barreling drives that resembled a freight train gone berserk. He also made 16 rebounds and 10 assists to cap a sizzling triple-double performance in this memorable Finals series in the grueling wild West.
Double team him? He’d find the open man somewhere on the opposite end. Throw a big guy in to front him? He’d whizz thru like Speedy Gonzales of the Looney Toons. Oh by the way, he could also launch those long range 3s to maximize damage.
But other than the things he does inside the court, Lebron brought in certain intangibles that factored significantly in the team’s make-up this season. Crucified endlessly last year for shopping the rest of the team off for a chance to trade for Anthony Davis, this time he would lead the team by example. He never demanded for any load management special treatment despite his 17 years of service in the NBA. He practiced hard, punishing his body for the difficult playoff grind up ahead. And this would manifest on the court where he would be sprinting downcourt faster than the youngsters despite his loaded minutes on the court. Here’s the 35-year-old grizzled veteran whose body has been the recipient of so much playoff pain, outshining everyone in a mad dash for the opposite end. Here’s the huffing-and-puffing old star, volunteering to guard that upcoming highlight film, Jamal Murray. Ridiculed no end after bombing out last year, Lebron has come back this year with a vengeance.
You don’t have to look far to analyze the Laker win. It’s simply that. Lebron.
Sure. Anthony Davis, the anointed heir-apparent, the Robin to this Batman-of-a-super-cage-hero, provided great defense and the steady support fire, with 27 points. He was clearly the biggest add-on to the reasons not named Lebron. He owned Game 2 with a clutch endgame hit after his guard, Mason Plumlee, got sucked away in an attempt to double-team Lebron.
And then there was that rave-of-a-Rajon Rondo. He took much of the orchestrating work away from King Lebron, giving him precious time to rest those old legs for the crunchtimes. His veteran point-guard instincts were what spelled the difference leading to AD’s Game 2 winner.
Alex Caruso was the defensive pest, foiling many key offensives by the Nuggets, and while also contributing on the offense. Dwight Howard took Nikola Jokic off his game. His physicality was the counterpoint that clearly stymied Jokic’ all-around play. Kyle Kuzma, Danny Green, Kentavious Caldwell Pope, Javale McGee. They all jelled perfectly, providing quality minutes and contributing to make the Laker campaign a success.
But other than the acquisition of the assorted skills and sizes that vastly improved the team this year, credit should also be given to first-year coach Frank Vogel and his staff. Coach Frank was able to read the opposition well and make the needed changes accordingly. Playing the small-balling Houston Rockets in the earlier series was providential. It forced Coach Frank to adjust, tinker with a small-ball team (albeit still big by other teams’ standards), making the team faster, both offensively and defensively. And it served them well in dealing with a younger, faster, highly versatile crew in the Nuggets. Coach Frank emphasis on the defensive end paid off handsomely. The Lakers’ offense may have been anemic at times, but their defense always carried them through, making them lead in deflections per game and fastbreak points.
In the end, this was how the West was finally won. With a doggedly-determined defense. A smattering of fastbreak points. A support crew that blended well, faced against different opposition strategies. And of course, lotsa Lebron. Kudos for finally taking the Western pennant.
And now, Lebron’s quest for the crown continues.
For a closer look, just click on the pics. Title photo courtesy of Silver Screen and Roll. Other pics courtesy of NBC Los Angeles, Denver Stiffs, Wager Talk News, Arab News, Essentially Sports, The LA Times, the Orange County Register, Ashley Landis Associated Press, Kim Clement USA Today, Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images and Larry Brown Sports.