Why Did So Many People Think the Blazers Would Beat the Lakers?

By Stephen Douglas
LeBron James' bald spot.
LeBron James' bald spot. / Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
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The top-seed Los Angeles Lakers did the thinkable on Saturday night when they eliminated the eight-seed Portland Trail Blazers from the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. The Lakers won four consecutive games in such a convincing manner that the outcome seemed incredibly obvious from the start. And yet...

From the minute it looked like the Blazers would make a run at the final spot in the Western Conference, people were coming forward to proclaim them a huge obstacle for the Lakers. Charles Barkley said the Blazers could / would beat the Lakers before the season even resumed. And he wasn't alone. As the Blazers blazed through the seeding games, beating the Grizzlies and taking Game 1 of the Lakers series, the Portland bandwagon filled up quickly with no regard for social distancing.

Even generally brilliant minds were briefly swayed by the small sample size of a negative Game 1 result for the Lakers. And then 48 hours later most people had snapped back to reality. Anthony Davis dominated Game 2, the Lakers cruised in Games 3 and 4 and Damian Lillard got hurt and went home, leaving the longshots shorthanded as the Lakers completed the gentleman's sweep on Saturday night.

So what were we all thinking? The Bucks dropping Game 1 of their series with the Magic was met with laughter, but no one was saying Orlando had a shot against the best team in the league. And there certainly weren't any people predicting the Hornets or Wizards were going to beat the Bucks back in June when they were on the outside looking in.

What is it about the possibility of LeBron James failing that causes generally reasonable people to lose their minds and prognosticate the impossible? Is it because every misstep is more ammunition for the Michael Jordan debate? Yeah, probably. Deep down LeBron has been threatening one of the few things in this world that most people believed to be true - Jordan is the best ever.

Whether LeBron is actually better or not is beside the point. His very existence is a threat that must be constantly mitigated. It doesn't matter who won the series, just saying they would lose for a month puts the thought in the back of people's heads that he almost did, even if he didn't. Sure, you end up looking dumb, but in the end, who was the one who really got owned the hardest?

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