by Chris Tagawa
I have got to get this "why Kobe only took three shots" [in the second half of Game 7 vs. the Suns] theory out there. We have all heard the following:
1) He was just sticking to the game plan
2) Raja Bell played great defense
3) Barkley's great blast about being able to place the blame on his teammates.
I even heard he knew they wouldn't win the NBA championship, so he might as well spend time with his new daughter.
My theory is much simpler. It has to do with the LA Lakers holding onto the LA market. Losing in Game 7 to the Phoenix Suns was regrettable, because the Lakers were up in the series 3-1. But it was also very acceptable. When they lost, there were a lot of sighs and then LA collectively said it was a good run and nobody expected us to beat the Suns anyway.
Losing in round 2 to the LA Clippers in probably 5 or 6 games would not be acceptable at all. Forget that the Clippers were the second best team in the Pacific division behind only the Suns. Forget that the Clippers top to bottom (save Kobe) have a better roster. If the Lakers would have lost to the Clippers (God forbid!), there actually might be a segment of LA other than myself who would become Clipper fans, and that can never happen.
Kobe (the Lakers) tanked because this loss was acceptable to LA Laker fans and it was the only way for the franchise to save face.
*Editor's Note: Chris is a friend of The Association, as well as a lifelong L.A. Clippers fan who knows his hoops. He has had an open invitation to share his insights with us, and he finally took us up on it.