Below is a collection of links about the Lakers health, struggles down the stretch and previews for their impending first round series with the Thunder. Enjoy them, there’s some really good stuff this morning.
From the Los Angeles Times: Bad day for the Lakers, who lost another player to injury, got drilled by their cross-town rival and angered the All-Star forward on the team they’ll face in the first round of the playoffs. Sasha Vujacic left with a severely sprained left ankle in the Lakers’ 107-91 loss Wednesday to the Clippers and might not be available against Oklahoma City, which plays the Lakers in Game 1 Sunday at noon at Staples Center. Vujacic’s injured ankle wasn’t the Lakers’ only problem. There was also Kevin Durant’s injured ego.
From the OC Register: The worst thing any playoff-qualifying team can feel is successful based on regular-season overachievement. When it gets hard in the playoffs, as it assuredly will, that sense of satisfaction morphs into the grim reaper. The fleeting, subconscious thought: “It has been a great season,” means a sigh gets exhaled when teeth absolutely need to be gritted to survive. Maybe – just maybe – if a team is experienced enough to guard against human nature, then the damage from such a letdown can be somewhat mitigated.
From Kurt over at Pro Basketball Talk: It’s very trendy to be down on the Lakers right now. They’ve given everyone plenty of reasons the last month — spotty execution, horrible outside shooting, questionable defensive rotations and a general malaise. See, there I go doing it — we act as if these Lakers are that other team in LA. The Lakers won 57 games and won the West going away, despite a number of injuries. (Kobe had a number of injuries all by himself, it just doesn’t keep him out of games). It’s trendy to think the Lakers will fall short, and plenty of people are rooting for the Lakers to self destruct in a spectacular, Lindsay Lohan fashion.
From Hardwood Paroxysm: A little over a week ago, the Thunder and their fans were up in arms over poor officiating in their overtime loss to the Utah Jazz. There was good reason for the uproar. CJ Miles got away with slapping ten with Kevin Durant when the league’s leading scorer put up a game-winning attempt. The attempt fell short, the whistle of referee Tony Brothers remained silent and state of Oklahoma went nuts. I warned that if they thought the officiating here was bad and a disaster, they should wait until they’re forced to deal with the officiating in a playoff series against the Lakers. At the time, the Thunder looked to be no worse than the sixth seed in the West. As fate would have it, they dropped to the eighth seed, setting up a showdown with the Lakers in the first round. And it certainly will be a showdown.
From Land O’ Lakers: The Lakers officially began their title defense on October 27 with a ring ceremony and a game against the Los Angeles Clippers. Oodles of pomp, circumstance and promise! Tonight, the campaign is book-ended against those same Clippers, but the vibe couldn’t be any different. Literally and figuratively, the Lakers are limping into the playoffs. Win or lose, there will be a vibe more “lamb” than “lion” as the curtain drops on the regular season.
From the Los Angeles Times: Lakers center Andrew Bynum took part in Wednesday morning’s shoot-around, his first on-court work since sustaining a strained left Achilles’ tendon March 19. “I did a lot of offense,” Bynum said, smiling. “My touch is still there.” He has not practiced with contact, a step he is saving for practice later this week. The Lakers are expected to begin playoffs Sunday against Oklahoma City at Staples Center.
From the LA Daily News: Andrew Bynum took the next step toward returning to the Lakers’ active roster for Game 1 of their first-round playoff series against the Oklahoma City Thunder. He participated in a few shooting drills at Wednesday morning’s shootaround. He also ran on a treadmill before the Lakers faced the Clippers in the regular-season finale at Staples Center. The next step will be a full-contact workout today while the rest of the team has the day off. If that goes well, he’ll practice Friday.
From ESPN.com: Then again, anger can get you deep into the NBA playoffs. Of all the emotions that emerge in the postseason, a controlled anger can be the most valuable. Ask the 2004 Detroit Pistons. There’s never been a team with more reason to be mad than that collection of castoffs, cobbled together from other teams and low draft picks, a group that took its spiritual guidance from the volatile Rasheed Wallace and filled digital recorders with rationales for his numerous technical fouls.
From NBA.com: The potential for an exciting series is matched by the strange way the series has arrived, with the Lakers tripping over the regular-season finish line as Kobe Bryant struggles with injuries and the Thunder going from a 2009-10 of amazing growth to a reality check of a late slump. Clearly this is not the way either hoped to enter the playoffs.
From Silver Screen and Roll: It seems everywhere you turn, numbers are used to explain basketball these days. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. People love numbers. Real numbers. Made up numbers. Misintepreted numbers. They’re all used to try to figure out this beautiful game of basketball that we love so much. A game sometimes so simple, yet so complex at the same time. But I don’t want to start a debate over the pros or cons about the numbers game to explain basketball. That’s a topic for another day. Instead, let’s focus on a simple number. Sixteen. In this year’s playoffs, the number 16 is the most important one of them all.