Hoopsworld: After losing a heartbreaker to the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday night at STAPLES Center, the Los Angeles Lakers fall a game behind the Cleveland Cavaliers for best record in the NBA. While 53-14 is good enough for a 3 1/2 lead over the Boston Celtics, the regular season goal for the Lakers was to secure home court advantage throughout the postseason including a potential return to the Finals.
The Cavaliers have 10 games left at home where they’re a stunning 30-1. Their road record of 24-12, while less spectacular, remains strong. Cleveland has just five away games remaining and could very well finish with the best record in the league.
On Tuesday, Coach Phil Jackson acknowledged that he may reduce minute for key veterans like Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Derek Fisher as the season winds down – even if that means backing off the chase for home court advantage. The team has all but locked in that honor throughout the Western Conference Playoffs.
For the Lakers to not only return to the NBA Finals but to finish as champions, they’ll need to complete the following three keys to success:
1) Get Healthy – The Lakers have survived without center Andrew Bynum since January 31st when he went down in Memphis against the Grizzlies. Recovering from a torn MCL, Bynum’s original window of return was approximately March 28th to April 25th.