Lakers don’t make it interesting

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Some athletes live for opportunities like this, but several key performers in purple wilted when the going got tough.

And Lakers fans, while often too busy genuflecting, should have seen it coming. The Lakers spent too much time whining about the referees this season – Gasol, Fisher, Odom and Bryant always mad at someone besides themselves.

Blow the whistle on Fisher, and maybe he deserves every good guy award off the court, but every time, he walks over to the ref to bellyache. Blow the whistle on Gasol, and he looks as if someone just swiped his lunch money.

Blow it on Odom, and it takes him right out of his game. Blow it on Bryant, and until the Finals, he was the picture of calm and poise, and then what happened?

The Celtics never played distracted, but the same cannot be said about the Lakers, too often taking the lead from their coach, who also spent time before the media delivering messages to the officials.

By way of startling contrast, Rivers never offered an excuse, his team responding in the same way – even when some of their better performers were taken to the locker room for repairs.

This is more about the makeup of champions than one colossal collapse in a 39-point loss.

Disagree, if you like, but much of it is Bryant's fault, his teammates and even his coach never quite knowing which Bryant they are going to get from quarter to quarter – sometimes the facilitator, sometimes the scorer.

He can talk all he wants about being a leader and working better with his teammates, but he still lives in his own world, and hot as he was to start Game 6, the others didn't bother coming along for the ride.

The Lakers have their role players, but Bryant's role always remains fluid, the uncertainty apparently too much for Odom & Co. at times.

And where do the Lakers go if it comes down to counting on Odom? All that talent, and how often has that been said, and going into the fourth quarter of the year's biggest game, he still didn't have a basket.

Two teams go for the title, and one of them has to lose, but that doesn't mean getting pulverized and exposed as big softies – the Lakers laying down like whipped dogs.

The first half of this game set the tone, both teams tired from the travel and the Celtics stranded in L.A. with airplane troubles, but letting nothing stop them.

Ray Allen left early with an eye injury, but the Celtics remained gritty. The Lakers' response to opportunity? Only Bryant and Luke Walton scoring baskets in the first quarter, the moment too much for everyone else.

Lakers fans will spend the next few days offering excuses, rebuttals and sharp retorts while trying to ignore the obvious – their heroes lack the heart and true grit to be champions.
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