Will This Be the Best Laker Team of the Gasol Era?

Without question the Lakers have been the dominant force in the West for the last three years.  They may have struggled in a series here or there but they have been the Western Conference Champions every year since acquiring Pau Gasol in one of the greatest (or worst, depending on which side you’re looking from) trades in recent memory.

They fell short in the Finals in 2008 due to spotty defense and a heavy reliance on a more elegant offense.  The Boston Celtics were too much defensively and even Bryant seemed to be worn down by the amount of effort he had to exert on defense against Paul Pierce, who played like the best player on the court that year.  Garnett was a man playing against Gasol, who looked like a mere boy, and dominated that match-up from the first tip to the closing seconds.  The Celtics bench played stronger, and the gritty play and focused defense carried them to an NBA-record seventeenth championship in 2008.

To begin the 2008-2009 season, the Lakers were knocked for their tendency toward finesse and inability to play rough with others.  Despite the early criticism, they looked dominant against a young Orlando team whose leader, Dwight Howard, stood and watched like a deer in the headlights in his first Finals appearance.

The more experienced and motivated Lakers refused to allow a repeat of the humiliation they suffered at the hand of their long-time rivals, the Boston Celtics, just one year earlier.  Kobe, jaw firmly jutted out and dialed in like a sniper, led his team to an impressive championship performance, getting help on key plays from the likes of his close friend and teammate Derek Fisher, whose playful smile after draining a trè to seal the win in game four of that series is one of the memorable moments of the ’09 Finals. 

Trevor Ariza showed up with a couple key steals and some stellar outside shooting to help push the Lakers f...

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