Imagine this: Vegas had a prop bet on the Lakers facing a first round sweep after squeaking into the post season. The Lakers would be playing without 55 percent of their scoring on the season, the starting power forward would be playing with a torn ligament and the starting off guard would be the D-League MVP. This team, which would have a starting five that has played a grand total of two minutes together all season, would have to try to slow down the San Antonio Spurs with a three-man core that has been playing together for almost a decade. How much would you have put down on the odds of this scenario happening?
As I write these words, the Boston Celtics are holding a 12-point lead, and seem to be holding off a 1st round season sweep of their own against the New York Knicks. After three games, it didn’t seem like the Celtics had a glimmer of hope of winning a game this series, yet J.R. Smith was suspended for a game and Carmelo Anthony just hasn’t been able to find a rhythm. I’m sitting here trying to convince myself that this Lakers team — as depleted as they are — can find a way to be competitive in this Game 4 at Staples Center in front of their fans. Unfortunately, that seems as unlikely as the scenario mentioned above.
There were such high hopes and expectations coming into this season. Mitch Kupchak put together one of the most incredible rosters we had ever seen on paper. He did the impossible by bringing in Steve Nash. Then did the even more impossible by trading away a center who would not log a single minute in 2013 for this generations best. Even the minor move for Jodie Meeks was a great signing… on paper.
Problems would ensue, however.
The Lakers failed to win a preseason game. Red flags were ignored. Steve Nash broke his leg. Mike Brown was fired. Phil Jackson was (allegedly) snubbed from the coaching position. Mike D’Antoni was hired. The Lakers lost a whole lot more games than they won, and in the midst of losing (and the probably cause for a lot of those losses) more core guys missed time due to injuries. Pau had knee problems. Jordan Hill had back spasms, Chris Duhon did as well. After the spasms, Hill tore his labrum. Pau had a concussion. Dwight had a partially torn labrum. Steve Blake had a stomach thing. Pau then had Plantar fascists. Kobe sprained his ankle. Ron tore his meniscus. Nash pulled his hammy. Kobe ruptured his Achilles and then the season was over.
There were 14 injuries during the regular season with a total of 175 games missed from everyone who went down. As bewildering as the regular season was, the Lakers bad luck continued into the post season with Meeks, Blake, Nash, and Artest all down with an injury going into Game 4 — and Gasol will be playing with a torn ligament in one of his fingers.
How do you preview a game that is notionally a foregone conclusion?
The Lakers will start Darius Morris, Andrew Goudelock, Earl Clark, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard in what is likely the last game of the season for a Lakers team that suffered through setback after setback. The Morris-Goudelock backcourt wasn’t as bad as many would have expected in their first stint together as back court mates, but there was a lot left to be desired as the Lakers suffered their largest home playoff defeat in Game 3 after a 31-point loss. While the two combined for 44 points, neither could keep Tony Parker out of the paint, where has lived for the whole series.
Tim Duncan has had a great series, the interior defense of both Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard have been questioned, but they’ve largely been left out to dry by the poor perimeter defenders allowing penetration, freeing up Duncan and other bigs after rotations. The case was most evident in Game 3, once again, with Morris and Goudelock struggling to stay in front of Parker and Co. The Spurs had 30 team assists, and will be looking to move the ball in similar fashion tonight to close out the series.
For the Lakers, a steady diet of Gasol and Howard aren’t going to win it. The Spurs had packed the paint with more fervor as the series has progressed and the consistency of perimeter shooting has decreased. The Lakers have shot just over 25 percent from three in this series (15-for-57) and will need to see the three-ball fall and a much higher rate should the Lakers make this one competitive. There really hasn’t been an opportunity for either Howard or Gasol to get into a real groove with the Spurs having four guys at any given time with one foot in the paint.
On the defensive end, it’s all about keeping Tony Parker on the perimeter and out of the lane where he has been dangerous, creating scoring opportunities for himself and others. The Lakers defenders have worked hard in this series, but the hard work hasn’t exactly been within the realm of the Lakers scheme, which is understandable considering the fact that at least three rotation players have been out in each game this series, and five will be out in the finale.
We can’t go into this one expecting a Lakers win, but we can go into this one expecting this team to work hard on each end of the floor and to go down fighting for one more game. No Lakers team has ever been swept in the first round of the playoffs, and if you’re suiting up tonight, you don’t want to be a part of the cast that is the first to end the season in that fashion. While I would love to see the Lakers come away with a victory in this one (I’ll actually be in attendance tonight), just seeing them going down fighting until the very last possession will be good enough for me.
D’Antoni can only ask these guys to play tough, play smart and to play hard. This season has been a disaster, but what is potentially the last game of the season doesn’t have to be.
Rich Muhlach says
This feels like an 8th seed team who barely sneaked into the 7th seed playing against the best team in the West which fell to the 2nd seed at the last minute due to injuries (Ginobili etc)
In a season like this, even simple gestures like this are spun in the wrong direction:
This could be Pau’s last game as a Laker. Could be Dwight’s. Could be MWP’s. Could be Earl’s. Could be Blake’s. should be an interesting game… Leading to a more interesting offseason.
itting here at the Corona Cigar bar in Orlando, Fl its amazing the negative comments about Dwight. The worst was “We all knew Dwight and Kobe would be a bad mix”. Kobe is a serious basketball player who cares. Dwight thinks everything is funny and could care less”. That was from a Magic season ticker holder.
Oh well. The times they will be a changing. Please look stupid.. Make it a game.
This is going to be even more embarrising then last game. Good by Mike, Pau, Metta, Meeks. Clark and Duhon.
So many lose ends with this Laker team. I bet if Dwight knew that Kobe was retiring he would stay, but that is a cloud that will hang over the Lakers and keep them from moving on.
There is nothing worse than having your star play try to recover from a potential, career-ending injury. It looms over your future and expectations. Especially when that player eats up about 110 million dollars next year(including luxury tax). It is going to be a huge distraction and contentious subject.
The Trailblazers spent many seasons trying to wait for Brandon Roy (and Oden) to come back.
The Bulls wait for D. Rose(and he is at the beginning of his career).
I don’t think that things will start to feel fresh in Lakerland until after Kobe is not a part of the organization. The loyalty that the city shows for him will end up being a bitter pill.
Give it all you got Lakers, leave everything on the hardwood
Joe M says
Oh no Phillip. This is the last game of the season. Try to enjoy the remaining minutes with Goudlock as your MVP.
Craig W. says
On first look the Laker guards literally don’t know how to get the ball into the post against this Spurs defense. Pau doesn’t seem to know either. I don’t know how you fix that.
Craig W. says
This comment filter is really getting ridiculous. I know Darius doesn’t control it, but still…
why would you take Gasol out??? Even M. Thompson questioned it….Have Gasol…Howard…Jamison…all play 44 minutes or more….Those three are good players….S.A. has 3 great players but the Lakers still have talent….Howard didnt have that much talent around him when they went to the finals…At least compete ..this coach is bad….
Gasol looking good, Lakers not looking to take any 3’s, too many turnovers that Spurs are turning into points.
Has anyone figured out yet why Ebanks is not even active? MDA is obviously not a fan, but seems to me he might me a slightly better option than Morris, Goudelock, Duhon lineup. Is this just more MDA nonsense or is there something else here?
My 2nd most hated team is the Spurs developed from all those wars in the early 2000s. Hopefully the rivalry is renewed after this sweep.
Knowing the Spurs won’t win the title makes me happy. And that the Celtics will lose ending the big 3 era in which Lakers won 2 titles to the Celtics 1 also brings me joy.
Lakers taking few 3s as open looks are few and far between. This is where they really miss Kobe – he gets guys so many open looks.
The Lakers get some of the most stupid turnovers I have ever seen. I don’t know whether its low bbiq, lack of spacing or bad chemistry.
I don’t think that things will start to feel fresh in Lakerland until after Kobe is not a part of the organization.
For a second there, I thought that I was reading a BigCitySid comment.
Still no Ebanks sighting. If Dwight resigns, he will tell Mitch to change the coach. That’s the only reason he will resign.
Can Mike D look any more disinterested? Hey Mike enjoy your last game ever as a NBA coach. Leave Duhon in all game since he plays like you coach.
Lakers Season: Tell me again about the rabbits, George.
San Antonio Spurs: You look over there, Ok, I’ll tell ya.
Joe, a lot of us have been wondering about that as well, many have posted the same question as you, but no one seems to know (or won´t say?)
@Purple. I can only assume (since he has a history of doing this, see Jordan Hill in NY) that MDA has some personal issue with him and refuses to play him – no matter what the cost to the team. I mean Ebanks is not exactly a difference maker, but he is a better option then what we are throwing out there. I honestly can’t stand the idea of MDA coaching us again next year – we have no chance with that guy at the helm.
Nice half for the LA Bobcats.
2FG attempts in the first half and you try to convince us you are a franchise player?
Lakers organisation should really think if Howard is THE guy.
next year will not be any better(meaning no title)..Kobe shows he can only play for Phil….and with Kobe and Howard not being able to play together and Kobe being a year older and coming off an injury…Its easy to see the Lakers sucking next season too.kobe played the play maker for a few games and went back to being a ball hog….Now with no money…and Gasol getting older…Peace is too old….Coach doenst know how to handle superstars..Nash is done….Time to start a 3 year rebuilding plan…start with Howard and go from there….
Joe M says
LAKERS ARE STILL IN THIS!!!!! I have not heard the Fat Lady.
D’antoni has made a lot of questionable choices, but I’m fairly confident that if any of us had been coaching L.A. we wouldn’t have brought Ebanks within a country mile of seeing the floor either. If he hasn’t even been practicing correctly, I can’t imagine he’d do substantially better in a game.
Lakers needs to clean up the turnovers 16 of them and only 15 FGs made.
Mark Sigal says
One big knock on MDA is that his face projects disgust when he players make bad plays. Mike, bench em or coach up if they let you down, but don’t consistently show em up.
yeah Joe, I´d prefer another man at the helm too-
LosFeliz, Steinbeck! poignant ref.
What’s worse: Dwight getting thrown out on purpose in a blowout or Kobe checking out but still playing in a blowout? All that going down fighting talk from Dwight was all lip service.
WOW. Dwight Howard gets his second technical foul and is gone from the game. Not the way Howard needed to end the season.
Do we really want to build a team around DHow?
This ref crew is brutal.
Tweet from J A Adande: Maybe Kobe didn’t want to hang out with Dwight in the locker room.
Someone tells the refs that S.A. Doesn’t need their help anymore. This is possibly the worst ref game I have seen in the NBA in recent memory. We would lose anyway, which makes it all the more puzzling. Did they bet on a spread?
Any question about Dwight being a losser? Guy is gone!
We should not be talking about the future as long as MDA is still the coach. Nothing can be built if your coach is inept. This season is the proof of that theory. No doubt! One should not thing naively that the consistent injury problems that have plagued this season was purely accidental. It wasn’t. Players’ mental and physical conditions are closely related. When players are forced into playing in a situation where they are not comfortable, it is easier to get injuried. When MDA was New York last year, the Knicks also had consistent injuries happening to multiple players. When Clippers were bad, they also had consistent injuries season after season. Bad coaching is like cancer to a team. It must be excised before the team recovers.
I hate it when people say that MDA didn’t get a fair chance and he should be given the opportunity to work with the team full season starting from preseason training camp, blah, blah. Well, if we do that, we will have another wasted year. And the team will probably be terminally run into the ground.
I am no DH backer, I have doubted him as the Laker future and still do – but he didn’t deserve either T tonight.
What an ugly ugly game i have to laugh but didnt expect much, too many injuries, Dwight gor himself ejected but im almost conviced he be back next season, if not we will have all that massive cap space on 2014 anyways and reload then. I dont mind taking some lumps if it means improving the long term financial health of the team.This season needed to be put out of its misery.
Wow first cooment i make and got moderated smh, anyways Kevin i doubt Dwight got ejected on purpose t
I’m with you Joe.
Spurs hacking Dwight all series. Murdering him with a chainsaw in Texas chainsaw massacre movie.
Dwight is only human and he is frustrated for not getting calls. He worked his ass on defense and offense in this series, so guys stop stating that he should be patient enough and let his frustrations go.
Even Kobe back in those years was frustrated also.
Season long trend of Dwight not receiving any respect from the Refs continues .. Wonder what he yelled back to Kupchack in the tunnel after the GM patted him on his back?
Everyone is saying MDA is an offensive genius. Well, he certainly left his genius somewhere else. I mean, look at this team on the floor. Do you see an offensive system out there? Do the players know what they suppose to do come down the floor? Do you see if there is a focal point of attack? Feeding Pau down low more like an afterthought or last option.
Anyone else remember Duncan screaming at the ref and throwing his arm demonstrably towards him over a perceived no-call. Textbook T call, and it is not made. Dwight, who is getting abused down low with few calls tears his arm back – gets a T. After a perceived no call he barks at the ref a little – gets a T.
Kobe is coaching right now – MDA is doing nothing. Phil would be working over the refs endlessly at this point.
Can someone answer this please. If a player is amnestied by a team no other team gets him can the team that amnestied him take him back?
@Spartacus – after 1 year player can sign with team that amnestied him.
I believe Dwight was still shouting back at the referees.
Thanks joe. So the player cannot play for a year if no other team hires him after his old team amestied him.
Pau, Blake, Ron and Kobe
Correct, further if he only has one year left on his contract and someone picks them up – then the amnesty team can re-sign after that year. Either way there is a one year bar.
I am not a math major but if we amesty Ron Artest and Nash retires, can we get a top 10 point guard? I meanLakers cant trade Pau no team would take his 19M.
Maybe re-sign Blake, Meeks, Clark, Dwight and then wait for Kobe to return. Lakers would even earn money with Kobe sitting on the bench.
mercifully, this season is over..
but it´s gonna be a long summer…
Paul L says
It’s been a good run for the Kobe Bryant Lakers – cant ask for a better decade and a half for a franchise. Time to rebuild and move on
I would love to see Pau retire as a Laker.
A line up of Kobe, Dwight and Pau plus scrubs could have given the Spurs a run for their money. But a lineup of Morris, Goudelock, Duhon wont
Harvey M says
got to give Kobe credit. man that guy is cool. Looking good in his suit. Somehow him on the sidelines in a nice outfit is a bigger story than anything.
Bynum and Howard both ejected in elimination playoff games. Pau outlasted Bynum as a Laker. Can he outlast Dwight?
Lakers won’t rebuild, they reload.
No draft picks so miracles are what we are hoping.
as expected by most of us, we’re going to be swept in the 1st.
thats why i was away during these playoff games, tried to kept myself busy to avoid frustration, and knowing that Howard was ejected (these refs are really not giving him any calls when people are not playing the ball when fouling him, he’s no Shaq that can carry the weight of the defender and let them suffer for fouling hard).
anyways, it was a disappointing season, full of drama and hope.
i hope miracle can take us back again to promise land, with Kobe at the helm, we can do this.
and please get us a better coach. 🙁
Isnt that the first time Mcgrady gets out of the first round? and man Miller is obnoxious, “Dwight is not a max player because he cant hit freethrows”, by his logic Shaq was never a max player either.
This season has been so brutal it has almost purged last season’s taste from memory. My team is out of the playoffs 1st round via sweep. Old dudes heal up; Young dudes work on your skills. FO, get it right for the 2013-14 season.
Zero chance our cap space open up enough for us to go after anyone.
Kobe – 30 Million
Pau- 19 Million
Hoaward – 20 Million + = east up our entire cap space – we will maybe have a 2.5 million dollar exception to sign a guy.
Those 3 guys alone put us into the territory that we can only sign minimum level guys – who for some reason this season we completely stayed away from.