L.A. Lakers: How Did the Lakers Go from Title Contenders to Old News Pretenders?

Losing five straight games at the end of the regular season certainly does have a way of turning around perception when it comes to the Los Angeles Lakers and their chances of competing for a third-consecutive NBA championship.

Just a couple of weeks ago various analysts were falling over themselves proclaiming how great of a team the Lakers were, and how a fourth-straight trip to the NBA Finals seemed all but guaranteed.

Then came a home loss to the Denver Nuggets, followed by another home loss to the Utah Jazz. All of a sudden the Lakers' outlook for the 2011 postseason didn't seem as rosy as it did when they were winning 17 out of 18 games.

The bleeding didn't stop with Utah as losses to Golden State, Portland and most recently Oklahoma City have all took turns destroying the good feelings the Lakers accumulated during their streak after the All-Star break.

The aura of invincibility they gained during that time has been mostly destroyed in the space of one week, and according to the opinion of numerous people, it's something that we all should have seen coming.

Or, as I recently read from a CBSsports.com message board, the Lakers are old news, and the rest of the league has finally caught up to their act.

Some people feel the Lakers pretty much coasted through the Western Conference the past three seasons, but there were signs in last year's playoffs that suggested their reign of dominance may be coming to an end.

Observers point to the Lakers' tough first-round series with Oklahoma City, and they also mention their tougher-than-expected Western Conference Finals victory over the Phoenix Suns.

Sure Los Angeles somehow found a way to win last season's championship, but many people felt that valuable lessons had been learned about the Lakers through their struggles, and that this information could be utilized this year.

The Lakers loss to the Warrio...

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