With just over a month left before the '21/'22 regular season tip-off, two teams have imposed themselves as favorites to come out of their respective conferences -- the Nets in the East and the Lakers in the West. If that ends up being the case, according to Gilbert Arenas at least, the end result will come down to two guys; James Harden and Russell Westbrook.
As great as he is, Harden's previous playoff woes are why Arenas points to No. 13 as the potential troubling factor for the Nets. Granted, with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving by his side, his late-game decision-making might not even be put on test come the postseason. But in case it does happen, a potential of another James Harden disappearing act should ring the alarm bells for the Nets.
That right there will cost series. Like he's trying to do a bounce pass, or he's going to shoot a stepback three because he wants a heat check; the Lakers are not going to do that. So that's his problem.
Gilbert Arenas, No Chill with Gilbert Arenas
The Lakers might have the same problem with Westbrook. He, as well as the rest of the group, will need to come up with a pecking order, allowing all three of their star players -- occasionally Carmelo Anthony as well -- to try to close out games.
It's safe to assume Frank Vogel and the coaching staff will use the regular season to establish some sort of late-game hierarchy, and it isn't crazy to assume LeBron James will be on top of it come the postseason. But it also isn't crazy to assume there might be times Westbrook tries to dethrone The King.
I'm not projecting tension between the two teammates -- although most people think that's inevitable -- but just going by what we've seen from Russ 13 years into his NBA career. Richard Jefferson did the same thing.
When Bron's at the top of the key and they send a double team Russ is open for a three; if Russ goes 2-for-9, they're gonna lose that game. If Russ goes 2-for-5, and the rest of them he's driving, under control, in the paint, then they win that game. The problem is, we've seen two may of the 2-for-9 games from Russ.
Richard Jefferson, No Chill with Gilbert Arenas
As great as he is, Westbrook is known for his poor decision-making in late-game situations. The same goes for Harden. So both RJ and Arenas are right; a potential Nets-Lakers Finals matchup might come down to who of the two can minimize their mistakes in crunch time.
If they can, KD and LeBron will be the ones carrying that load. As they should. That's when things get interesting. But let's wait and see. We're just over a month away.