Lakers/Clippers: Sasha Rolls Ankle, Clips Just Roll

Darius Soriano —  April 14, 2010

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Coming into this game, with the playoff seedings pretty much set and the Lakers knowing who they’d face in the first round (and that they wouldn’t catch Orlando for the league’s 2nd best record), I think the only thing that all Lakers fans were hoping for was an injury free game.  Well, they didn’t get it.  After raising up to shoot a jumpshot, Sasha Vujacic came down on Mardy Collins’ foot and sprained his ankle.  Severely.  And while the Machine rolled around, clutching his ankle, writhed in pain on the floor right in front of the Lakers’ bench, the atmosphere and tenor of this game changed.  Up to that point, the game was close and the Lakers – though not playing particularly well – were playing (relatively) hard in an effort to win the game.  However, after Sasha got helped to his feet and then hopped to the locker room with his arm draped around the neck of trainer Gary Vitti, that was no longer the case (at least for a good portion of the remaining minutes of the game) and it showed in a 107-91 win for the Clippers.

The Lakers, with nothing to really played for, started to play to not get injured.  And that was really the story of this game.  That, and the fact that the Clippers played their butts off in the final game of this regular season.  I mean, let’s give credit where credit is due.  Sure, the Lakers continued their recent penchant for playing one step forward, one step backward basketball in this game.  But the Clips just continued to move forward, got on a roll, and didn’t look back.  They ran the floor, shared the ball, knocked down jumpers, and played with a sense of purpose for the entire game.  The results were 7 Clippers ending the game in double figures, led by Steve Blake’s triple double (and team high 23 points) and Chris Kaman’s 22 points and 7 rebounds.  Before the game, Phil Jackson commented that this Clippers team (even without Baron Davis and Eric Gordon) had some talent and that they are set up nicely to be a good team next season.  But it didn’t take until next season for the Clips to flash some of that potential.  They took it to a Lakers team that was just looking for the game to be over as quickly as possible.

And I don’t really blame the Lakers.  They’re a banged up team.  Already playing without Kobe and Bynum while also dealing with Jordan Farmar’s tweaked hammy, the Phil was forced to play Odom and Gasol extended minutes in the second half because besides Sasha’s in-game injury it turns out that Ron also suffered a twist of his ankle and Luke’s back went tight on him.  So, if you were looking for the reasons behind Ammo starting the second half and Fisher, LO, and Pau all seeing extra court time in the final 24 minutes of a meaningless game, there you go.  Phil was down to 7 healthy players (if you count Shannon and his bad right thumb healthy) and even if the prudent course of action would have been to rest them, it would have been difficult to field a team of only Ammo, Powell, and Mbenga on the floor as I’m pretty sure a three man line up is not legal.

And while all was not bad for the Lakers – Pau and Odom combined for 39 points (on 26 shots) and grabbed 25 rebounds, while Shannon had another good night with a line of 18/5/3 – I’m pretty sure every player in the purple and gold jerseys would have preferred to have not even suited up for this one.  When you add the result of the game and the collateral damage that come from it, I’m not even sure if this game was worth the time that everyone who played, attended, and watched put into it (unless you are a Clips fan, then by all means enjoy this win).

So, this is how the regular season ends.  A blowout loss to the Clippers with an infirmary ward’s worth of players on the bench.  Not good times, to say the least.  But hear we are.  The playoffs start in four days and the Lakers have precious little time to get players healthy while still installing game plans for the Thunder.  As commenter JeremyLA24 said:

Moving foward is arguably going to be alot more strenuous than the past 82 games but I wish the best of luck to this Laker squad that still has the potential to be defending champions despite all of the injuries getting in their way.

Indeed.  Repeating was never going to be easy, but ready or not the journey starts on Sunday.  I think we can all agree that we hope the Lakers are healthy and ready for the challenge.

Darius Soriano

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21 responses to Lakers/Clippers: Sasha Rolls Ankle, Clips Just Roll

  1. This is off topic, but I just wanted to say thanks to everyone for a good regular season. This team had its ups and downs, but in the end they made it through with a shot to defend their title. Over the next few days we’ll have lots of stuff on the Thunder and I hope to have you all here along with me as I enjoy the ride of another Lakers’ post season.

  2. can’t believe sasha got hurt in the final game…. this season has been so frustrating….

    still, i think we’ll destroy OKC and hopefully will get our mojo back in time for a tough 2nd round…

    noon on sunday, y’all!

  3. Thank You FB&G with Kurt and Darius leading the bloging way, it was a great regular season. Let’s see how far we can go inth the Playoffs, why don’t we, and enjoy every single game we can and win another Championship along the way.

    “Often the best way to overcome desire is to satisfy it.” – W. Somerset Maugham

  4. Thank you Darius. You have been great and cheaper then a doctor for the head.

  5. Letsss get ready to rumbleeeeeeeeee!

  6. michael zarabi April 15, 2010 at 2:07 am

    Any chance we can sign a petition to start the playoffs 1 week later?

  7. I’m a thunder fan in OKC and I wish you guys the best of luck in the upcoming series. (Just tell Artest to lay off KD a little bit, please?)

  8. Hillary Ocholla April 15, 2010 at 5:39 am

    Good job to everyone on Forum Blue & Gold.

    Darius, you’re doing some good things on this blog. It’s silly season time now that the playoffs are here. All sorts of comments about the Lakers will be coming up now. Good luck with keeping calm heads on here :D

    Looking forward to the playoffs.

  9. This is not the Lakers year. So many injuries. LA looks like Boston last year, when they suffered injuries on key players. It’s either Cavs or Magic this year.

    I remember what Phil says in an interview regarding thier chances for a repeat at the start of the season. He just said health is a major consideration and a little bit of luck.

  10. thanks to all the voices that made this site interesting this regular season. especially to Darius Kurt and Phillip for making it all possible.

    now the fun begins

  11. Thanks for your patience, Darius. Amen @4.

    I’m praying for Gary Vitti day and night. This team can kill it in the new season with a little (okay a lot of) help from our friend.

    Go Lakers!!

  12. @Jane I hope Vitti stays healthy. Doing all that work might strain his back or something

    if you were PJ could you have hoped for anything better? looks like he’s getting into KD’s head a little bit

    http://sports.espn.go.com/los-angeles/nba/news/story?id=5091485&campaign=rss&source=NBAHeadlines

  13. I guess this game shows how big a roll intensity plays. A split second later on a closeout, a little slower getting back on defense, and a little more room in passing lanes, and voila, the Clippers look like a championship caliber team.

  14. There’s a new “the machine” video!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=maFbbPOl6dk

  15. I think what many of us forgot to realize as we’ve dissected most of the games the 2nd half of the season was the amount of injuries the Lakers have been dealing with this year. We were rolling and running on all pistons during the beginning of the season bc we were healthy. Then as players got injured, us fans and sports analysts still expected the same amount of production from them.

    We forget that Kobe’s 2 fingers, knee, ankle, back, etc., Lamar’s shoulder, Pau’s hammy, Bynum’s knee, Luke’s back, Ron’s hand, etc. and the fatigue from playing 2 finals in a row, w/ Kobe & Pau in the Olympics, really takes a toll on their bodies. Yes this is what they’re paid to do and they’re professionals, but we can’t deny all of this.

    I think that’s why as fans we get frustrated when we hear the players saying they’re not worried bc I truly think they aren’t. And rightfully so, bc they know that if they were all healthy they would kick some major ass.

    As a Lakers fan since I was 4 years old, I’m not worried for this championship, but more worried about their health (esp Kobe’s as you can tell he’s aging) and their futures. As Darius pointed out in a previous post, we have our core set for the next couple of years. We’re just plagued with injuries now.

    I hope that we can recuperate in the next few days we are off, and the Lakers engine tuned up.

  16. Thank you for taking the bait KD, That was lesson #1 in playoff basketball.

  17. @MonkeyTheLeo

    Many of us aren’t necessarily forgetting the number of injuries, we are bemoaning the lack of execution.

    I, for one, would be perfectly happy if they were running the triangle deep into every shot clock, made consistent use of the size and athleticism advantages, rotated, helped, and closed out on every defensive possession and still lost due to talent drop off or bad luck.

    But that’s not the case. The frustration is that they haven’t been executing the way they should, no matter who is in the lineup.

    And the fear is that because they haven’t been conditioning themselves as a group to playing the right way, they won’t be able to do it in the playoffs. Does anybody really think that the players are thinking, “well, I know the proper play here is to swing the ball, then cut and set the pick at the elbow, but since it’s the regular season, I’ll just jack this shot up. I’ll do the right thing when it matters”? And even if that were really the case, it probably wouldn’t work, because his teammates wouldn’t be expecting the right thing to be done, and might get themselves out of proper position in anticipation of a jacked up jump shot.

    This is even more important on defense. If they haven’t built up a sense of trust through repetition on rotations and help, there is no way in the world to just turn it on, because in the split second of they play, they have to all anticipate the movements of each other.

    Anyway, you get the idea. They can control execution, and have largely failed to do so recently. They can’t (mostly) control injuries, and to me, should be able to win as long as Kobe and Pau are available.

  18. Umm, let’s not use the whole injury excuse. We still finished with the best record in the west and 3rd best overall. Granted, we stumbled across the finish line of the regular season, but keep in mind that this team is built for the post-season. The games slow down a bit and those teams that can execute in the halfcourt best usually win. There’s no reason to think we won’t have a great shot at winning the west and competing again for the title. And if we do, there will be extra motivation to prove that we can do it without HCA. Yes, we had injuries – every team does. Let’s not harp on it or let it color our world. We will have all of our key players back and ready for game 1 – let’s get it started with a “W.”

  19. Realistically, setting aside all the “no desire!” and “no hunger!” bluster (which, admittedly, I’ve been guilty of):

    1) Kobe Bryant is going to start the playoffs with a broken index finger on his shooting hand and a swollen knee (and those are the ailments we know of)

    2) Andrew Bynum will be returning (hopefully) after 3 weeks off with a tender achilles.

    3) Ron Artest will be playing with a sprained thumb and now a tweaked ankle.

    4) Lamar Odom will be playing with a sprained shoulder and a bad thumb.

    5) Shannon Brown will be playing with a sprained thumb on his shooting hand.

    6) Jordan Farmar will be playing with a tweaked hamstring.

    7) Luke Walton will be playing with a bad back (and knowing Luke, he’ll reinjure it in the first round and be done for the playoffs).

    8 ) Derek Fisher will be playing with a strained right hip and a giant salad fork sticking out of his back (to steal the old Bill Simmons joke).

    The only rotation player who doesn’t have an injury is Pau Gasol.

    This team is too injured and too tired to win another championship.

    You have to remember, in terms of physical, emotional, and psychological wear and tear this team will be trying to reach the Finals FOR THE THIRD TIME IN THREE YEARS, so what they’re attempting is more similar to a three-peat than winning a back-to-back championship.

    I just don’t think the team has it in them.

    I understand why Mitch decided to only swap Ariza for Artest, but this team needed an injection of new blood BADLY this summer (and I’m not just saying this in hindsight – I was saying it at the time, too). Not just Artest.

    If Mitch had simply found a way to get another guard in exchange for Farmar (or traded Farmar for a 2nd rounder and then signed another guard), the team would have been better set up to win another title.

    As it stands, I just don’t think they have it in them.

  20. @quetzpalin

    You make a very good point…it is about execution and the triangle. I don’t mean to make an excuse about the injury, and you’re totally correct.

    But just as a side note, when you’re injured, it’s really hard to execute (i.e. making the right cuts and/or screens) and easy to settle in just staying in one spot (the perimeter) and let the person w/ the ball do everything.

    Again not making excuses, but I do understand. I’ve played organized and pickup ball for a bunch of years now, and I can see when people are injured, they just stay on the block w/out getting good position, or stay on the perimeter watching the star player bc they’re too distracted from their injury.

    Mentally, it’s easier to just let Kobe/Pau do their thing and just run back up the court and play defense instead of running the offense and having to read the opponent’s defense.

    You’re definitely on the mark w/ the Team not executing. But I have a wavering confidence like @Burgundy bc they’re basically trying to 3-peat (3 trips to the finals). I’m hoping that mentally (bc that’s what I really think is all it boils down to) they can execute in the playoffs.

    They have the talent, the skills, the injuries…it’s just the mental aspect that I don’t think they have.

  21. Burgundy, that was a sobering list.