The smart money says that the only time that you were sure the Lakers were going to make the playoffs this season was at the end of Memphis’ beat down of the Utah Jazz Wednesday night. The Lakers knew they were in when the game started, but it didn’t detract from their motivation to earn the 7th seed in the Western Conference and face the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday. It was never easy, but the Lakers are in the playoffs. A congratulations is in order.
Without Kobe Bryant it was an unlikely group to get the job done. But without the franchise’s leader, the unlikely squad played like you would expect Lakers legends to play in big game scenarios. That is why I have developed this shorthand analogy to describe the Lakers success in the last 2 games.
Steve Blake is to Kobe Bryant
as Pau Gasol is to Magic Johnson
Wasn’t it obvious? It needs no explanation. But seeing as it has been quite a few semesters since some of us took the SAT, it might take the whole exam time for this analogy to sink in. So here it goes.
Simply, in the absence of Kobe Bryant, Steve Blake was Kobe Bryant. He took on the offensive load from the perimeter, got his teammates involved and filled up the stat sheet on Sunday and Wednesday. In both games, Blake combined for 47 points 12 rebounds 11 assists. Those aren’t just All Star quality numbers. Those are carry your team into the playoffs, clutch quality numbers. Blake even went to the free throw line 8 times against Houston–and made all of them. Where would the Lakers be without Kobe Bryant? Barely in the playoffs. Without Steve Blake? I have no idea.
And in the second part of the analogy, Pau Gasol has been every bit as multi-faceted and clutch as Earvin Magic Johnson himself when the Lakers needed it. Pau had a triple double in 2 of the Lakers final 2 games this year. Against San Antonio and Houston respectively, Pau had 26 points 11 rebounds 10 assists, and 17 points 20 boards 11 assists with 2 blocks. There is a slight difference between the NBA finals and the final 2 games to qualify for the NBA playoffs, but the clutch factor when it counts is the most important part of the analogy The next most important part is how he did it. Pau was a facilitator and effective threat in so many areas of the game, and the toughest matchup on the floor.
It’s just the regular season, but when you step up for your team when it has to be done, that’s what great players do. Pau Gasol is on the cusp of being considered a Lakers great. 3 Finals Appearances and 2 Championships will do that. But Steve Blake and Pau Gasol played like Lakers greats when their best was needed. Even Kobe and Magic would be flattered by the analogy after this week.