Car Flags Up!

17 is coming, Laker fan.

Jim Rome
October 07, 2020 - 9:33 am
Anthony Davis

USA Today

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Laker fans, how you livin today? Because I know how you were livin after game 3. Not good. Below not good (INSERT).

And that’s because, that famous Miami Heat culture finally kicked in. And even more importantly, the indomitable James Buckets Esquire showed up, showed the hell out, and we finally, officially, had ourselves a series. Buckets dominated, and the Heat locked down, forced LeBron into a ton of turnovers and kept the Brow under wraps. And the Heat were just swaggy and drunk enough of themselves to really believe they could pull this off.  Especially with Bam Adebayo coming back for Game 4. 

So you had to know last night was going to be serious. And it was.

And Laker fans, do not come in here today and tell me that last night wasn’t a must-win and that you’d be okay with dropping Game 4 because the series would still be tied. Last night was a must win. Not my words, LeBron’s.

When he woke up from his pre-game nap, he sent a message to the Lakers group chat with just two words: Must win.

And LeBron didn’t stop there. As he said afterwards, "I felt like for me, personally, this was one of the biggest games of my career. I just wanted to relay that message to my teammates, the type of zone I was in, the type of moment it was and the kind of team we were playing against. ...They are just a gritty, so damn-well-coached team. I feel like if we're going to be a championship ballclub, if we want to really be a championship team, that we got to have that same grit and that same attitude. It was my mindset. I'm still in it."

He is still in it and after last night’s 102-96 win, he’s got a 3-1 lead and one hand on the trophy. But it did not come easy. Nothing is when you’re 17 years in. And in a war with the heat. 

And as you’d expect, Jimmy Buckets picked up where he left off in Game 3, going 5 for 5 in the first quarter. But then the Lakers locked him up and held him to 3 for 12 the rest of the way. And by the Lakers, what I really mean is Anthony Davis. Because when Davis was on him, Butler was 1 for 7.

That is ridiculous. That is a big man picking up a wing on switches and on possessions and shutting him down. That is not supposed to happen.

But Davis didn’t really seem to think it was a big deal: "We just wanted to give him a different look, honestly. We were asking a lot out of Bron. I just told Bron, 'I’ll take him.'

It’s actually a big freaking deal. A brilliant by Frank Vogel, who I’m going to say for the record, because no one else will: frank Vogel is pretty much a brilliant coach; and that was a brilliant; but even then, you need a brilliant player to execute, and the Brow is that.  Pretty much the best player on the floor right now. 

But even if you take away Butler, you’re not ripping Miami’s heart out: they really are the very epitome of not dead, can’t quit; and they’re more than just their culture: culture is critical, especially to this organization: but that’s not what wins championships, players do: and still have some pretty damn good players. Include one sensational rookie. By now everyone knows Tyler Herro’s story: just like you know, dude is going to knock down shots.

Rookies are not supposed to hit shots like he does. Not in the Finals. Not ever.

But the guy who REALLY came through in the clutch for the Lakers was KCP. He’s a guy who has taken plenty of Heat from Laker fans in the past, but last night, he was huge when it mattered most. The guy who some folks have claimed is only on the team because of his agent, was the game-saver last night. I have bad news for you KCP haters: the Lakers essentially go as this guy goes: They’re 12-1 this postseason when he scores 10 or more.  Take that for data!  He has 40 three’s this postseason, second most in Laker history: you can take that for data too. And he had it going last night again…

The fact that seven of the most important points in the game were scored by KCP and Rondo says a ton. KCP hasn’t been a fan favorite and Rondo is on a veteran’s minimum. And yet they were the ones who were in the spotlight last night and loving it.  Say what you want about the big two, but the Lakers don’t win last night WITHOUT THOSE TWO! 

It tells you about the roster that the Lakers have, and how the pieces fit together, and the fact that guys are fearless to step up in huge moments.

And then it was down to Anthony Davis to run a stake through the Heat’s heart.

 

Davis. Dagger. Game. Series. Number 17 is on its way to LA. And Laker fans, you can start planning the parade route, whatever that will look like in a pandemic. That’s not to say the Heat are going to roll over. They won’t. There is absolutely zero quit in Miami. They aren’t going to give up, but LA is just too good.

And it’s not just about what LeBron and AD do on offense, it’s about what they do on defense. This Lakers team is winning with defense. They aren’t the Showtime Lakers. They aren’t running and gunning and throwing lobs.

They are banging, and battling, and switching, and jumping into passing lanes. They are so locked in together defensively. And the fact that they’ve been able to get on the same page defensively, like this, in a pandemic year, with a first-year head coach and a bunch of new faces, is crazy. And it’s crazy enough to win a 17th title. Car flags up! And don’t hang an asterisk on them either: this one means as much as any other and maybe even more.