From Michael Jones, Yahoo Sports: It wasn’t supposed to be this difficult — the Los Angeles Lakers were one of the NBA’s elite teams from the onset of the 2012-13 season. But in 48 minutes during Sunday’s loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, the Lakers may have seen their season come to a premature end. That’s because the Clips clinched the Pacific Division and knocked the purple and gold out of the coveted eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference by defeating them,109-95. To make matters worse, the Utah Jazz beat the Golden State Warriors to overtake the Lakers in the standings and hold a half-game lead going into Monday. Since Utah holds the tiebreaker, the Lakers are looking at an uphill battle. That battle, which includes games at Portland and vs. the Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors, wouldn’t be relevant if it weren’t for the stellar campaign of Kobe Bryant.
From Ramona Shelburne, ESPN LA: Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni knows the risk of playing Kobe Bryant as many minutes as he has during the past four games. He also knows the risks of not using the Lakers’ best player as much as possible as the team frantically tries to make the playoffs. “We’re playing a little bit with fire,” D’Antoni said of Bryant, who has played 46 minutes a game the past four games. “We wouldn’t like to but we put ourselves in the position we have to. “We’re short-handed right now and we’re playing it very tight. Normally this wouldn’t happen but we put ourselves in a hole and Kobe is our best bet going forward to win games. He said he’s going to retire after a year so we’re going to get our money’s worth for two years. I don’t know what to tell you.”
From Suki Thind, Lakers Nation: At the beginning of the season, nobody would have guessed that the Lakers would be fighting for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Western Conference. Well, unfortunately, that’s the reality and things are looking grim for the Lakers following a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday and a win by the Utah Jazz over the Golden State Warriors. Currently, the Jazz are in the eighth playoff slot and, as many of you know, hold the tiebreaker over the Lakers should the two teams finish with identical records. For edification, the Lakers are currently a half game behind the Utah Jazz with a record of 40-37; the Jazz have a record of 41-37. Basically, what this means is that the Lakers have absolutely no wiggle room to lose a game over their remaining five; barring a complete collapse by the Jazz.
From Melissa Rohlin, LA Times: After the Lakers lost to the Clippers, Dwight Howard was noticeably upset. He looked down at the ground. He didn’t smile. And his responses to reporters’ questions were extremely terse. “You seem upset,” said a reporter. Responded Howard: “Just getting ready for tomorrow; have a good practice; come back for the game.” A short while later Howard was prodded again. “Are you upset, mad, disappointed — which one is it right now?” Said Howard: “Can we ask some more questions?” Howard was not much in the mood to talk about anything after the Lakers fell to the Clippers, 109-95, on Sunday afternoon, getting swept by their Staples Center neighbor for the first time since Donald Sterling bought them in 1981. When asked to rate the Lakers’ intensity in the game, Howard balked. “I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t have a rate meter. I don’t know. Sorry.”
From Drew Garrison, Silver Screen & Roll: It’s been a long and winding season for the Los Angeles Lakers. One could argue that the highest point of the season came before a single game was played on the hardwood. Before the preseason, before media day, and before the group had ever gathered in Southern California. The Summer of Dwight Howard and Steve Nash was many, many losses ago and many, many disappointments ago, but was a moment of jubilation. It’s been all downhill from there. What goes up…It didn’t just come down, though, for the Lakers throughout the season. It was a storm that has left them shipwrecked miles off the pacific coast, hanging onto a few floating pieces of debris as they tread water, hoping they make it back to shore. There’s blood in the water, the sharks are hungry, and there are five games left for those bullies of the ocean to maul what remains of the 2012-2013 Lakers.