For the first time in this entire playoffs, the Lakers showed the type of intensity and commitment to defense in consecutive games that championship caliber teams must play with. Now, it is time for this team to carry it over for one more series in order to achieve the ultimate goal: winning a championship.
Watching the post-game press-conference when the Lakers were presented with the Western Conference Finals trophy, there was a joyous feel to the team but at the same time, a level of dissatisfaction and the hunger to accomplish more. When I look at this Lakers team, I see a team with the talent to win it all but at the same time the ability to loosen up and become unfocused.
Maybe something changed over the past 72 hours. Maybe I am wrong. But there is one thing that you can put in the bank. The only vindication that Kobe Bryant can achieve is by winning a championship. This is Kobe's sixth NBA Finals Appearance and he has already won three. The famous argument, "Let's see if he can win without Shaq" can be put to rest over the next few weeks. Despite that Kobe is surrounded with talent in Gasol, Odom, and Ariza, he has not received that kind of help from them throughout the playoffs.
It certainly is not comparable to the way Lebron James has been thanked by his teammates but Kobe is the sole reason why the Lakers won against Denver. Lebron's sick performance throughout this year's playoffs have overshadowed just how dominant Kobe was throughout this latest playoff series. Bryant's offense, passing ability, defense, coaching on the court, and veteran savvy have proved to be the difference throughout the post-season.
I would not say that this is the best team Kobe has been on throughout his career but it certainly is over the past five years or so. With the Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando Magic, and Boston Celtics appearing to remain dominant in the East and with the Western Conference being so talented from one to eight, the chance of becoming a dynasty and the window of opportunity for any team is closing rapidly. The Lakers, in my opinion, understand the task at hand and I believe will show up to play night in and night out no matter who they play.
Kobe Bryant is a top ten player in NBA history right now. Winning a fourth ring will only strengthen the resume and put any talks of no longer being able to lead a team to a championship to bed. It is all up to him now and there are no more excuses.