Saturday, December 20, 2014
Blog Page 42

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Photo: Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images

In the late hours on Friday night, fighting the pain that radiates from his injured foot, Kobe Bryant did something we don’t see him do often. He acted human.

Around 3:30 am, roughly six hours after all of Los Angeles had their hearts broken, there he was contemplating the previous night’s events. Thinking about the play we’ve seen him do a million times. Back to the defender, head looking over his shoulder, attack. It usually means business. It usually means Kobe is about to do something amazing. But not this time. This time it’s different. This time he’s on the floor. This time it’s serious. Angry and frustrated, Kobe vented on his Facebook page.

“Why the hell did this happen?!? Makes no damn sense.”

Kobe said mimicking the cries of the millions of fans who saw their hero fall Friday night. Why? In this season of so many downs, that started with so many promises. In a season where every Laker starter has had a significant injury. How does the Black Mamba go down too? Then he said something nobody ever thought he would say…

“Maybe Father Time has defeated me…”

The legendary Kobe Bryant, doubting himself? The man who once played half a season and won a championship with a broken finger. The man who played on countless sprained ankles, hurt knees, and even a torn wrist ligament throwing in the towel and admitting defeat. Is he serious? Or is he still coping with his injury? Granted, a torn achilles is no comparison to any injury Kobe has had to fight through, but to hear the Black Mamba question his ability to fight back from another injury is unheard of. He can’t go out this way. He’s not that vulnerable, he’s not that human.

“Then again maybe not!”

That’s more like it…

“One day, the beginning of a new career journey will commence. Today is NOT that day.”

That’s the Kobe we know. That’s the “Mamba mentality” as he put it. The drive that pushes him further than we thought possible. It’s what makes him the Black Mamba. It’s what makes him more than human.

Kobe will have to sit out the rest of the season. He’ll have to will his team to win from the sideline instead of on the court. And he’ll have to watch as his teammates battle without him in the playoffs. But one thing is clear, Kobe Bryant will not go out this way. He’ll have his MRI, he’ll undergo surgery, then while he recovers he’ll grow another year older and another year wiser. But just remember, Vino only gets better with age.

 

Kobe’s full post can be read here: https://www.facebook.com/Kobe/posts/10151563315250419

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Photo courtesy of Jeff Gross, Getty Images.
Photo courtesy of Jeff Gross.
Photo courtesy of Jeff Gross.

With just over three minutes left in the game, Kobe Bryant stood at the free throw line and scored his last two points of the night, and what appears to be, the season. He gathered himself for a few seconds until a foul was committed so he could sub out of the game. He turned around slowly, limped towards the bench as Metta World Peace checked in. Bryant was next met by Robert Sacre, on whose arm he held for support along with trainer, Gary Vitti, and the three headed to the locker room.

In the final minutes that followed, the Lakers were without their fearless, relentless leader. They did what Bryant would have wanted them to do – finish fighting. MWP drew a foul and hit both of his free throws. Pau Gasol scored on a layup. Dwight Howard got a dunk. Steve Blake hit another pair of free throws, followed by Howard’s final freebie which sealed the victory. With this 118-116 win, the Lakers remain in the 8th seed despite the Utah Jazz’s win over Minnesota Timberwolves, but at what cost has this one victory been bought?

HIGH POINTS:
Kobe Bryant – Putting aside his injury for this point, Bryant played another hell of a game. 34 points, five rebounds, four assists and 45 minutes of playing time. It appeared he was planning another all-gamer, until he was forced to leave the floor. But before he checked out, he scored eight consecutive points – back-to-back three pointers and two free throws.
Pau Gasol – It was a triple-double night for the big Spaniard, who has really flourished in these past few games. 26 points on 9-13, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. If any one player will suffer the absence of Kobe Bryant, it’s Gasol. Though the two are team co-captains, Bryant has been the undeniable and unconditional supporter of the other. If Gasol has an opportunity to do anything with whatever is left of this season for him and the team, while Bryant is recovering, it’s to prove whether or not he can be as influential of a leader as Bryant is and lead this team on the floor and in the locker room.
Dwight Howard – The seven measly rebounds aside, Howard put in 28 points on 7-8 from the field and 14-22 from the free throw line. Howard was actually an uber consistent 13-16 from the charity stripe through three quarters. He went only 1-6 in the final 12 minutes, but he made the one that counted the most – the last point in the game that gave the home team a two-point advantage.
Steve Blake – 14 points on 4-9 from the field (all from downtown) and a perfect 2-2 from the free throw line. Blake has done a solid job starting in place of Steve Nash. Unfortunately, the bench is suffering from his absence.
Steph Curry – My word – 47 points on 17-31 from the field, 9-15 from downtown (!), six rebounds, nine assists and three steals. Just another day at the office for the young Warrior.

LOW POINTS:
Bench – Just 10 points between Jodie Meeks and MWP and 0-4 from Antawn Jamison.
Rebounding – The leading rebounder in the NBA (Dwight Howard) should have some answers for the best defensive rebounding team in the league (the Warriors), right? Howard only grabbed seven rebounds in 38 minutes of playing time. He did run into some early foul trouble, but that shouldn’t have affected his ability to rebound the ball.
Defense – Steph Curry scored 32 of his 47 points in the first half, and when the Lakers paid more attention to him, then Klay Thompson went off for 17 points in the second half. For whatever reason, they were constantly left wide open, as if being dared to shoot, which they gladly did. Blake often left Curry and Thompson to help defend another, and the Warriors backcourt made him and the Lakers pay.
Kobe’s Injury – First, he banged knees with Festus Ezel, fell to the ground and grabbed his left knee. Next, Bryant drove to the hoop and when he landed, appeared to have hurt his foot. Lastly, he was dribbling around Harrison Barnes and suddenly fell. As he sat on the floor, he loosened his left shoe and grabbed the back of his ankle. Our worst nightmare as Laker fans has finally been realized – a season-ending injury to Kobe Bryant. His locker room interview after the game showed a very human side of Bryant, as he explained the severity of his injury, being role models for his daughters, as well as sitting on the sidelines and supporting/coaching his teammates;. “I’m going to be there still.” He said, “ I can’t be with them out there on the floor but I can use my intellect to try and break down film.” Isn’t it just like Kobe Bryant to be thinking of alternative plans already?

There isn’t much else to say after tonight’s game. You’re happy the Lakers won, but can’t find much of a silver lining when Kobe Bryant needs surgery and will miss the rest of this season and perhaps part of the next season. But as we’ve known for many years, Bryant is one of the most dedicated athletes when it comes to his body and this injury is certainly no exception. His recovery is not a question of “How?? It’s a question of when, and based on Bryant’s post-game interview, he is more than up for this new challenge. #countonkobe #prayforkobe.

Box Score

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The Lakers may have won the game, but they lost so much more.

In the closing minutes of the Lakers 118-116 victory over the Golden State Warriors, Kobe injured his Achilles tendon. He got up and made two free throws, but now it appears that he has a “partial tear” of his Achilles tendon.

An MRI is scheduled for tomorrow, but if it confirms this diagnosis, it means Kobe’s season is over.

A devastating night for the Lakers.

After Kobe’s superhuman heroics over the past month, with the playoffs so close, it is just terrible for him to have to sit out now. He went down fighting, that’s for sure.

What happens now, Laker Nation?

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After the Lakers loss to the Warriors, Mark Jackson claimed that the Lakers were in the rear view mirror and essentially believed that his Warriors were on bigger and better things. Silly rabbit, didn’t you know that the Warriors were scheduled to play the Lakers again in a few weeks?

There are several ways to interpret this Laker team coming into this game. On one hand, they are the team that was down double digits to a Portland team starting four rookies despite having their playoff lives at stake.  On the other hand, they are the team that pressed their advantages(i.e. Kobe, Gasol/Howard) and withstood a barrage of difficult shots from a budding star(Lillard) and a franchise that always seems to gives them fits at their home to take the victory.

The Warriors come in tonight after suffering a loss to a Thunder team that simply overpowered them on both ends of the floor. To make matters worse, Andrew Bogut suffered an injury and is unlikely to play tonight.  While Bogut isn’t the player his #1 picks status suggests he should be, he did give the Warriors more of a post presence as Lee doesn’t quite have the same skill set.  That loss makes the Warriors even more reliant on screens and perimeter shooting. On the defensive end, they will have their hands full containing an invigorated Lakers front court that has become more dominant with each passing game.

This space has already explained the strength of the Lakers at home.  Despite not covering the spread against the Hornets, the Lakers deserve acclaim for their active, if somewhat inconsistent, defense. The Warriors aren’t nearly as good away from home and played last night.  Add it all up and the Lakers should win going away.

Play: Lakers -7

Disclaimer: LakerNation.com is not responsible for any decisions made, financial or otherwise, based on information or links provided within this article.

 

 

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Photo courtesy of Sam Forencich, Getty Images.
Photo courtesy of Sam Forencich, Getty Images.
Photo courtesy of Sam Forencich, Getty Images.

Their last chance to sweep a back-to-back, a must-win to stay above Utah in the standings, and it had to take place at the cursed Rose Garden in Portland, Oregon.

Challenge: Extended. Challenge: Accepted. Challenge: Completed.

Despite missing three of their key players in Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum and J.J. Hickson, the Trailblazers do have some sharpshooting young guys led by rookie phenom, Damian Lillard. As a team, Portland hit 12-26 three pointers and went off running every chance that the Lakers gave them.

Fast, young teams who can shoot from the perimeter AND get to the paint is nothing new for the Lakers. It’s been like this all season, and if you asked Kobe Bryant, he would probably say that he liked it this way. The more challenging the situation or opponent, the more determined and ruthless he becomes, and lately, he’s been able to take his teammates with him. Tonight’s win, as has been the case for the last few weeks’ worth of games, was an important one, and despite allowing the home team to go off in the first half, the Lakers recovered defensively and maintained their offensive efficiency in the second half, leading to their 113-106 win.

HIGH POINTS:
MambaVino – Let’s get the incredible stats over with: 47 points on 14-27 from the field (beating the old record for most points at the Rose Garden from Lebron James’ 44), a perfect 18-18 from the free throw line, eight rebounds, five assists, three steals, four blocks and one turnover in 48 minutes of playing time. Yes – this time he played the game from tip-off to the final buzzer, looking and moving like a spring chicken from beginning to end. He and Pau Gasol looked like they shared the same brain, with Bryant’s four of five assists aimed at and converted by Gasol himself. It’s been phenomenal to watch his excellence shine during a time when his team is nothing less than desperate, and it’s also worrisome, awaiting the day when he has nothing left with which to play. But each time that ounce of doubt arises, there is always that reminder to #countonkobe.
SpanishSwan – Whether it’s his healthy recovery, Mike D’Antoni opening his coaching mind to Gasol’s game or Bryant encouraging his co-captain to park himself in the post – it’s got the big Spaniard looking like his old self and the Lakers are more than better for it. In his last four games, Gasol is averaging 19 ppg, 10 rpg and 6 apg. Tonight he put in 23 points, seven rebounds, nine assists and two blocks. Gasol was channeling Steve Nash out there, receiving passes and, in a split second, sending lobs to Dwight Howard or passing to shooters for the threeball. He’s as efficient a passer as he is a scorer, and if he can keep this up from here on out, the Lakers will make the playoffs AND probably ruffle some feathers (see: swan reference).
Steve Blake – A former Blazer himself, Portland has always had a special place in Steve Blake’s heart…but not when he’s in his Laker uniform. He didn’t put up a standout stat line at first glance, but the Lakers may not have gotten their chance to win this game had it not been for Blake’s forever feisty nature. With just over a minute left in the game, and the Lakers holding onto a four-point lead, Blake fought for the offensive board that resulted in Gasol’s lob to Howard, which gave the Lakers a six-point advantage. He finished with eight points on 3-4 from the field, seven rebounds, three assists and a steal.
Dwight Howard – 20 points on 9-11 shooting, 10 rebounds, three blocks and an assist – after a series of single digit rebound games, Howard went back to his dominating self. There is no one in Portland with the size and power to overtake him, and he made them pay for it tonight, living in the paint on both ends (Blazers went 16-35 from inside for the 32 points, but were outscored by the Lakers, who put in 54 points in there).
Free Throws – The Lakers went 21-24 from the charity stripe, led by Bryant’s perfect 18-18.
Second-Half Defense – As bad as their defense was in the first half, their defense in the second half was exceptional. After giving up 69 points on on 61% shooting to Portland, the Lakers closed in and allowed the Blazers just 37 points on 29% from the field in the final two quarters. Sending extra defenders Damian Lillard’s way was a key component. He went off for 25 points in the first half on 9-14 and handed out seven assists. In the final two quarters, he scored just 13 points on 3-11 and only collected a pair of dimes.

LOW POINTS:
Too Many Minutes – 48 minutes for Bryant, 39 minutes for Gasol, 38 minutes for Dwight Howard and Steve Blake. With so many injuries, yes, it’s difficult not to play so many minutes for the primary rotation, but the coaching staff needs to utilize other players just enough to give the starters a breather…or two.
First-Half Defense – See last high point.

Right around halftime, I read a tweet from Russell Simmons that said, “Embrace struggle. It is your greatest teacher.”

For every rock that has been heaved all season at the Lakers’ glass house, came a lesson set on every stone. Injuries that took players out, empowered other players to take on more responsibility. Having been eight games below .500, and far from playoff eligibility forced humility on this team who was expected to run every other team over. Fighting for the very last seed in the Western Conference has inspired this group of veterans to tune out all the naysayers who refer to them, daily, as old and incapable of competing with the young bucks in the league.

Yes, this season has been more than a struggle for this Laker team, but in this struggle they are learning more about themselves, each other and what it takes to be winners in a league that has all but counted them out.

Box Score

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Their win against the Hornets last night was a microcosm of the Lakers season. The Lakers had a 10 point lead in the first half only to concede a 14-0 run and eventually go down by 5 at the half. They had moments where they played truly inspiring basketball, particularly on the defensive end. They even had moments where they pounded the ball inside to Pau Gasol.  They also were tied up in the fourth quarter against a team that likely won’t win 30 games at home with their season seemingly on the line.

The Blazers come in reeling tonight having had their slim playoff hopes crushed a little while ago. Such teams usually struggle to find motivation in the initial games afterwards before accepting their reality and playing with purpose. The Blazers don’t have much to play for in the grand scheme of things, but are fully aware of the impact they can have on the Lakers playoff run.  We can most assuredly expect them to provide a spirited effort tonight. While the Blazers are suffering from injuries, their core players of Aldridge, Lillard, and Hickson will be playing. They also have intriguing rookie Will Barton starting tonight. Barton was terrific in the summer league and has a great opportunity to showcase his talent against a Lakers team that has a way of making role players look like superstars.

The Lakers struggle this year in back to back situations has been well documented. One could make the argument that they’re due for a win in this type of situation, especially with their playoff hopes at stake.  Sadly, it is not a convincing argument. The Lakers are still woefully inconsistent and lack the depth to handle games on consecutive nights, let alone cover spreads of this margin. Expect the Lakers to be in a dogfight all night.

Play: Blazers +6.5 

Disclaimer: LakerNation.com is not responsible for any decisions made, financial or otherwise, based on information or links provided within this article.

 

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The Lakers come into this game having officially conceded the Pacific Division title they’ve held for the last 5 years, not to mention bragging rights in the city of Los Angeles. That loss, however, pales in comparison to a more frightening possibility; missing the playoffs for the first time in 8 years despite amassing the highest payroll in the game.  Sadly, the Lakers’ destiny no longer fully resides in their hands with Utah having the tiebreaker should such a situation arise. That being said, no Utah loss means anything from here on out if the Lakers themselves don’t win four if not five of their remaining games.

The Lakers lack of depth seemed to catch up with them last Sunday against the Clippers as Kobe almost played the entire game yet again. That shouldn’t be the case tonight however thanks to the amazing return of Metta World Peace from surgery for a torn meniscus just 12 days ago. The Lakers clearly understand the imperativeness of this game as well as the need to get some rest for their aging superstar. For all of their shortcomings, the team has demonstrated the ability to impose their will against weaker teams when their backs are against the wall(i.e. Pistons, Cavaliers) and I expect that to be the case tonight.

The Hornets are exactly the type of fodder that the Lakers are looking for at this time of the year. Even when New Orleans puts up a fight, they are vulnerable to conceding lopsided runs that completely changes the context of the game.   They have done so numerous times this season, including once against the Lakers, and tonight shouldn’t be any different.

 Play:  Over 193.5

Disclaimer: LakerNation.com is not responsible for any decisions made, financial or otherwise, based on information or links provided within this article.

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Photo courtesy of Stephen Dunn, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Stephen Dunn, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Stephen Dunn, Getty Images

No matter their opponent’s record, regardless of whether the opposing team is a playoff contender or league bottom-feeder – no victory has come easily for the Lakers this season. With just a handful of games left and their post-season eligibility still hanging in the balance, however, ease cannot and will not be part of the agenda.

After battling back from being 25 points down in their last win against the Hornets, the Lakers needed to put New Orleans away early in preparation for the second game of their last back-to-back up in the Rose Garden tomorrow. New Orleans would not go down without fight, but the Lakers fought back enough to get the win, 104-96.

HIGH POINTS:
Pau Gasol – He’s been playing like the Pau of old, and the Lakers wouldn’t have won the number of games they have in the last few weeks without him. Asked after the game what he could contribute to the team’s wins, he replied simply, “Decisiveness.” It has been Gasol’s decision to be a more aggressive scorer that has made all the difference in the last few weeks. He has been a more aggressive defender and, as usual, aggressive on playmaking. Tonight he contributed a double-double to the win, with 22 points on 9-15 from the field, 11 rebounds, four assists, a steal and three blocks.
Mr. Fourth Quarter – Through three quarters, Kobe Bryant had just seven points on a not so impressive 2-7 from the field. He did have five assists, but other than that hadn’t done much else. Enter the fourth quarter where Bryant scored 23 of the Lakers’ 34-points. A three pointer here, a fadeaway there, and in one sequence, stole the ball from Eric Gordon, ran to the hoop for a layup and was fouled in the process, getting the opportunity to complete a three-point play, which he succeeded in doing.
Antawn Jamison – Sore wrist and all, Jamison is here to win and the team is lucky for it. He finished with 13 points and eight rebounds.
Steve Blake – Seven points on 3-7 isn’t much, but the five rebounds, six assists, and scrappy defense sure helped a great deal. Blake was all over Eric Gordon and Greivas Vazquez.
Metta World Peace – His return date was projected for six weeks since the surgery, but after just 12 days, MWP came off the bench in the first quarter and almost immediately scored from downtown.

LOW POINTS:
Defense – The Lakers’ defensive efforts are like a yo-yo – constantly going up and down. Tonight they managed to reach a 10-point lead in the second quarter, only to lose it before halftime. Eric Gordon singlehandedly kept the Hornets in the game with his 13-point quarter, and the Lakers’ greater attention to the point guard paid off in the second half, where Gordon scored just seven points. In the final quarter, Bryant rattled off seven straight points to give the Lakers another lead, but it wasn’t long before New Orleans was right back in it, going on a scoring run of their own. This team has issues sustaining their defensive efforts. They come in spurts, and remain in spurts.

With Utah losing to Oklahoma City tonight, the Lakers have taken over the eighth seed again, needing to win one more game than the Jazz at the end of the regular season to keep their playoff hopes alive. Next up are the Portland Trailblazers in the dreaded Rose Garden. There is no question as to how important every upcoming game is for the Lakers. Their margin for error is…well, they have no margin for error. If they want to keep their playoff plans alive, they just need to keep winning. It’s as simple as that.

Box Score

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Photo by: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images North America

The NBA world isn’t just about what you do on the court. We scoured the web for Lakers-related quotations to provide you with the 10 best quotes from the past seven days:

#10:

I didn’t even know I could jump that high.

Earl Clark on his block on Grizzlies’ Quincy Pondexter, via Lakers.com

#9:

You saw the game. He did everything. He was as big as their stars.

Vince Carter on Earl Clark after the Lakers win over the Mavericks, via the L.A. Times

#8:

They should be watching me.

Kobe Bryant, on if he was going to watch the Final Four, via ESPN’s Arash Markazi

#7:

I don’t want to go home. I want to make it to the playoffs. I don’t want to be on the Laker team that didn’t make it to the playoffs. I don’t want to be remembered that way so I’m just coming out and giving it my all.

Earl Clark, via Lakers.com

#6:

I’m good. I’m not a (wimp). I was walking a day after (surgery). I only used the crutches because I was lazy.

Metta World Peace, via the Huffington Post

#5:

It’s unbelievable. Any modern medicine you have to throw everything out the window.

Mike D’Antoni on Metta World Peace’s quick return from surgery, via NBC Los Angeles

#4:

I’d like to see him be a little less aggressive early on and be more aggressive later in the game. He needs his legs to be effective. And with the amount of minutes he’s playing lately, it’s normal that he’s tired at the end of games. He’s just playing a lot of minutes. I already said two games ago that I was concerned about it. But he’s the best at making plays down the stretch. That’s why he’s got the ball in his hands, and we count on those plays.

Pau Gasol on Kobe Bryant’s minutes, via ESPN

#3:

We’re not running anything that I would normally run. But, we feel like what we’re doing is better for the team to win right now, and I’m comfortable with that. I think everybody in every role should say, ‘What does the team need to win?’ I can’t be selfish and have them be unselfish; that’s not fair. But, trying to figure out what it is [took time], and I think we’ve come to a pretty good balance of what we need to do.

Mike D’Antoni, via ESPN’s Dave McMenamin

#2:

It’s smart if we continue to do that, not just for ourselves, but for the rest of the guys. It creates easier shots for everybody else out there. We’re both knowledgable players. We both have high basketball IQs. We’re both high quality players. It’s not just about making plays, but starting the offense that way and seeing how the defense reacts. Then we can set somebody else up for a good shot.

Pau Gasol, on being the playmaker as of late along with Kobe Bryant, via the Daily News’ Mark Medina

#1:

You can’t stop it. You can’t guard it. You just hope we miss. There’s really no reasonable way you can defend that. It’s a huge, huge threat. Then you have Dwight Howard ducking in on the inside and you put Jody Meeks in the corner and you just hope we miss.

Kobe Bryant, also on his recent playmaking role along with Pau Gasol, via the L.A. Times

 

Do you think any quotations got snubbed? Let us know in the comment section below!

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Photo by Getty Images

By: Alan Walsh

If the Lakers are going to make it back to the playoffs for the eighth straight year, they’re going to need some help.

Whether they get it or not is going to be the million dollar question.

The team that the Lakers are chasing, the Utah Jazz, currently hold a half-game lead on L.A. for the eighth and final playoff spot. Utah also owns the tie-breaker advantage over them based on beating them the only two times that they played this season, so it’s more like a 1.5 game lead they have on the Lakers.

Back in the Mike Brown era on November 7th, they suffered a 95-86 defeat in Utah which dropped them to 1-4 on the young season. The Jazz took an eight-point lead at the end of the first quarter and never looked back. In that game, the Jazz were able to get out and run against the Lakers as many teams have done this season.

In the second meeting between the two teams, Utah won again 117-110 but this time the Lakers were under the guidance of their new coach, Mike D’Antoni. This loss dropped them to 4-7 under their new leader, and this came at a time when the Lakers were trying to find their identity as a team.

In order for the Lakers to jump ahead of Utah, they’re going to need some losses from the Jazz in their last four games. That journey starts tonight as Utah hosts Oklahoma City in a game which means a great deal for both sides as OKC is one game behind San Antonio for the #1 seed in the Western Conference.

Following the matchup against OKC the Jazz will begin a home-and-home series with the Minnesota Timberwolves who are without their best player, Kevin Love. The Jazz will then conclude their season with a game on the road against the Memphis Grizzlies. This final game against Memphis is intriguing because there is a very distinct possibility that it could be a meaningful game for Utah’s opponent as well.

Right now, Memphis is in the #5 spot in the West but they can’t drop any further than that. However, they can move up to either the #3 or #4 spot should the Nuggets and Clippers start to slide at the end of the season.

The Lakers close out their season with four of their five remaining games at home. This stretch starts tonight as they take on New Orleans at the Staples Center. This is a very winnable game for the Lakers and they have to realize the situation at hand. It’s very simple, if they lose a game in this five-game stretch it’s likely that the Jenga tower will collapse and they will be on the outside looking in when the playoffs begin.

The remaining games for the Lakers after tonight include a game on the road in Portland tomorrow night, and then three straight at home to close it out against Golden State, San Antonio, and Houston which is no easy task as all of these teams are still trying to position themselves comfortably for the playoffs.

The Lakers have certainly put themselves in a tough spot, but what’s disheartening about this ordeal is that it’s not up to them whether they make it in or not; it’s ultimately up to Utah and whether they can lose at least two of these games.

One thing that the Lakers might have going for them is the refs. Let’s face it, no one wants to see Utah in the playoffs. I’m pretty sure Utah doesn’t even want to see Utah in the playoffs. It’s much more exciting with the bigger markets in the playoffs and this will work in the Lakers favor.

I’m not saying the refs will deliberately give these games to the Lakers down the stretch but if there are borderline calls, expect the Lakers to get the long end of the stick.

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In a season of disappointment and inconsistency, the Lakers have only five games left in their regular season.  It seems like only yesterday, the Lakers were starting the first day of training camp with expectations of another championship banner being raised in Staples Center. Now, the Lakers find themselves on the outside looking in at upcoming postseason play. With the postseason looming, the Lakers must play like they’re already in the playoffs.

Photo courtesy of Noah Graham, Getty Images.
Photo courtesy of Noah Graham, Getty Images.

There are five keys to Lakers extending their season into the postseason:

The Lakers must commit to playing inside-out. I cannot figure out why the Lakers fail to run their offense through Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol on a consistent basis. Is it Kobe’s stubbornness or Mike D’Antoni’s inability to maximize size over spacing, or a combination of both? Whatever the issues are, the Lakers have a luxury no other team has— two seven footers (Dwight’s 6-10, but close enough), and running the offense through these two guys would give D’Antoni the floor spacing he so desperately covets.

Kobe Bryant has to be the team’s main facilitator, not Steve Nash. Nash is out with a hip injury, but when he returns he should play off the ball. The Lakers’ offense seems to run better when Kobe has the ball in his hands and Steve more aggressive offensively. Nash’s career field goal shooting percentage (49%) is too good to go to waste on this team so the Lakers need him and Kobe to switch places to be successful.

The Lakers need to win all five games! The Lakers have teased fans all season with their mini win streaks, only to be followed by bad losses. With only five games remaining, the Lakers must end the season on a five game winning streak. The Lakers cannot afford to lose one game! To add insult to injury, the Lakers have not won both games in a “back to back” this season and now would be as good a time as any to start. The Lakers need to win tonight against New Orleans and go up to the Rose Garden, where wins have been hard to come by, and beat Portland tomorrow night. A win at Portland would be a huge boost for the team, but a loss at home to the Hornets would be as equally devastating.

Play solid team defense! If this was a video game, perhaps Dwight Howard could play all five positions on defense, but it’s not and he can’t. In good wins, the Lakers talked to each other on defense, but in bad losses, they argued, fussed, and looked absolutely lost.  In these last games, all Lakers must commit to helping each other and rotating on D. When the Lakers do this, they are unbeatable! If the Lakers can’t meet the defensive challenges, they will have an early start to working on defense for next season.

Hope and pray the Utah Jazz lose. The Lakers control their own destiny if they win, but why not hope the worst for Utah in the process. The Jazz play the Thunder tonight so let’s hope the Thunder rain on the Jazz’s parade.

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Photo Cred: Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press
Photo Credit: Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press

Here we are in early April, NBA playoffs looming, five games left in the season. Who could have imagined that the Los Angeles Lakers would be clawing away for a measly playoff position? In what has been by far one of the most memorable (and by memorable I mean head slapping) seasons in franchise history, the Lakers have finally come together and playing ball how it was imagined when this star studded lineup was assembled.

Regardless of what issues you may have with the Lakers this season, it means nothing at this point.  The personalities, the losses, the drama, it is all in the past. All the scars the Laker Nation has endured this season will be healed by one thing… winning.

The problem with the Lakers this season is that you never know what team is going to show up on any given night. Riding a three game winning streak that included solid wins over a hungry Mavericks team and the defensive minded Grizzlies, the Lakers dropped the ball again Sunday, losing to the rivaled Clippers. In the win, the Clippers swept the season series while knocking the Lakers behind the Jazz for the final playoff spot. With five games remaining on the schedule, the Lakers need some tough wins and help from the Jazz if they even want to think about the playoffs.

Now  when the Lakers make it to the playoffs, they will have to go down as one of the most dangerous eighth seeds in NBA history. In recent years, teams like the 1998-1999 New York Knicks and the 2006-2007 Golden State Warriors have made history by knocking off the number one seed. Keep in mind, both of these teams had been perceived as Cinderella stories, but this Lakers team is far from those comparisons. With a blood hungry Kobe playing out of his mind this year, any team in his path is going to be pushed to the brink.

In past seasons, the Lakers have also struggled with one major flaw; defending at the point guard position. With the new wave of freakishly athletic NBA players, the makeup of pounding the ball inside and big men dominating is at an all time low. Looking at the Western Conference alone, speedy guards like Russell Wilson, Damian Lillard and Stephen Curry feast against our aging roster.  The good news for the Lakers is that the game slows down in the playoffs. In the half court set, if the Lakers move the ball and run the type of offense we have played lately (not shoot with 21 seconds on the shot clock) 100+ points a night should be a breeze.

Even with a great offense, defense every night cannot continue to be our Achilles heel. Fortunately, for the Lakers, after being injury ridden all season, the pieces remaining have the ability to play at a high-level and when committed, can prove to be a solid defensive unit. With Dwight Howard finally healthy and Gasol’s length, the paint can once again become a no fly zone. Throw in the energy of Earl Clark and unorthodox game of Antwan Jamison. It is hard to argue many teams in the league can match the Lakers down low.

Perimeter and transition defense on the other hand is a much different story. With reports of Metta World Peace in tonight’s starting lineup, hopefully the Lakers can use Metta’s quick bounce back after surgery as some inspiration down the final stretch. Any effort  less than 110% in these final games and you can kiss the Lakers playoff hopes goodbye.

The Lakers will be in the playoffs this year and if they play at a consistently high level on both ends of the floor, watch for them to make some real noise. No one believes in the Lakers and if they do it is expected that they are pummeled first round. Can the Lakers win the Championship this year? It is not likely, but still possible. Of any eighth seeded team to make it to the NBA playoffs, no unit has ever had a better chance than the 2012-2013 Los Angeles Lakers.

So look at it this way, the Lakers really have nothing to lose at this point. Show up or shut up. Win the next five games and set fear in the hearts of any team they face in the playoffs. One thing stands in the Los Angeles Lakers way and that is history. Let us write it, let us own it Laker Nation.

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Photo: Noah Graham | Getty Images
Photo: Noah Graham | Getty Images
Photo: Noah Graham | Getty Images

The Lakers are again playing catch-up in the Western Conference Playoffs race.

After a 2-1 week, the Lakers (40-37) kept pace with the Utah Jazz (41-37) for the eighth and final playoff seed. The glaring issue, however, is that the Jazz hold the inevitable time-breaker against the Lakers.

In this past week, the Lakers defeated two formidable opponents in the Dallas Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies.

The Lakers’ ended the week on a sour note, conceding the Pacific Division title to the Los Angeles Clippers in a 109-95 defeat.

Even with their disheartening loss to the Clippers, the Lakers seem to have finally found their groove this season.

With only five games remaining in the regular season, the question now becomes: is it just simply too late for the Lakers to make the playoffs?

Only time will tell.

Take a look back now at the changes in the Lakers’ stock values and the impact the players should have going forward:

Kobe Bryant Up arrow : Kobe Bryant continues having one of his best seasons of his career.

Image: Stephen Dunn | Getty Images
Photo: Stephen Dunn | Getty Images

In the three games last week, Bryant, 34, averaged 46 minutes per game. With Steve Nash still dealing with leg and back injuries, Bryant has re-assumed his facilitating role.

With coach Mike D’Antoni employing a short 7-man rotation, Bryant has been forced to assume multiple positions.

As starting small forward Metta World Peace continues recovering from meniscus surgery, Bryant has been forced into the starting small forward position for the time being.

World Peace’s miraculous return this Tuesday should bring some stability to the starting lineup for the Lakers.

Bryant excelled this week, as he’s done this entire season, averaging 24 ppg, 10 apg and 7.7 rpg.

Bryant even registered his second triple double this season against Dallas, with 23 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds.

Despite continuing to play at a high level, Bryant’s increased playing time seems to be affecting his shooting efficiency. Bryant only shot 40% from the field and an abysmal 7.6% from three-point range this past week.

With Bryant handling most of the point guard duties, his turnovers have also increased. Bryant averaged 4 turnovers per game this week.

With only five games left, and the Lakers currently 1/2 a game back of Utah for the eighth and final seed, the pressure will once again rest on Bryant’s shoulders to drive the Lakers into the playoffs.

Pau Gasol Up arrow : A solid week from Pau Gasol this past week.

Gasol averaged 15 ppg, 10.7 rpg and 5.7 apg in his past three games. Gasol’s numbers are slowly starting to creep back up to his career averages.

With Nash and World Peace out, Gasol has been forced to take more of the scoring load on offense.

It seems that Gasol is finally healthy for the first time the season, as evident by his 15 points per game on an efficient 52.6% shooting.

Gasol has also been doing an excellent job of facilitating the high-low pass with fellow big man Dwight Howard.

Gasol is starting to find Howard in good operational areas under the basket, which has led to easy buckets in the paint.

The Lakers will need even more from Gasol down the stretch, however.

Gasol’s pick-and-roll with Bryant has been effective of late, and the Lakers should put even more emphasis on pounding the ball inside going forward.

With Howard commanding the defensive end, the onus will fall on Gasol to continue making the right reads at the high post on offense.

An aggressive, focused Gasol could mean playoffs for the Lakers.

Earl Clark Up arrow : Earl-sanity is back! Well, sort of.

Image: AP
Photo: Associated Press

Earl Clark had a one of his best weeks since he first emerged from the depths of the Lakers’ bench.

Clark averaged 13.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg and 2.3 bpg over the last three games.

Clark’s highlight game this week came in the win over the Mavericks, in which he scored 17 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and blocked 5 shots.

Clark has been rather inconsistent the past few weeks, but hopefully this solid week will help him regain his confidence.

Even with World Peace returning Tuesday, the Lakers may be forced to rely on Clark’s offensive contributions off the bench going forward.

Dwight Howard even: Dwight Howard finished the week off with a solid scoring performance (25 points) against the Clippers.

Howard, however, did a poor job on the boards in that game in which he only grabbed 4 rebounds.

As a result, Howard was a little too inconsistent for the Lakers’ liking this past week.

Howard had an all-around solid game against Dallas in which he scored 24 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.

In the win over Memphis, Howard only had 9 points but did gobble up 10 rebounds.

As shown by Howard’s numbers, his inability to be effective on both ends of the floor simultaneously has hurt the Lakers.

Over these last five games, the Lakers desperately need Howard to control both the glass and the paint on both ends of the floor.

Five consecutive double-doubles moving forward could go a long way for this Lakers team.

Steve Blake even: Filling in for the injured Steve Nash, Steve Blake did a decent job at the starting point guard position.

Image: Alex Gallardo | Reuters
Photo: Alex Gallardo | Reuters

Blake averaged a respectable 8.3 ppg last week, but only shot 40.9% from the field.

Blake has been playing solid basketball of late, and he must continue doing so, so long as Nash remains out.

The major issue with Blake recently is his high volume of turnovers.

Blake has had an efficient assist-to-turnover ratio all season, but this past week his turnovers increased significantly.

Blake turned the ball over four times against Dallas and five times against Memphis.

This is simply too many turnovers from the Lakers’ starting point guard and must be reduced going forward.

Antawn Jamison Down arrow : After suffering an injury to his right wrist a few weeks ago against Washington, Antawn Jamison has become rather inconsistent.

Jamison only scored 4 points against Dallas, but did follow up that game with 13 points and 5 rebounds in the win over Memphis.

Jamison then scored only 8 points in 17 minutes against the Clippers, which is just not enough production from the Lakers’ sixth man.

It looks like Jamison will continue to fight through his wrist injury, which has been affecting his patented ‘flip shots’, but the Lakers certainly need more offensive production.

Even if Jamison is unable to score at an efficient rate, he must use his abilities to rebound and facilitate on a more consistent basis.

Jodie Meeks Down arrow : With World Peace out of the lineup last week, Meeks again filled the starting shooting guard position.

Meeks struggled this past week, however, shooting just 26.3% from the field and 30.8% from behind the arc.

With Gasol and Howard attracting extra attention inside, Meeks can potentially benefit from kick outs and skip passes.

Unfortunately, Meeks seems to be in a shooting slump, especially from behind the arc.

As Meeks returns to the bench this week with World Peace back, the Lakers can only hope Meeks returns to his sharp shooting.

Metta World Peace Injury sign : Despite having surgery just 12 days ago on a torn lateral meniscus, Metta World Peace is expected to start Tuesday night against the New Orleans Hornets.

This comes as quite a surprise considering World Peace’s initial recovery timetable of “at least six weeks”.

With only five games remaining, and the thought of missing the playoffs looming, the Lakers can certainly use World Peace’s contributions on both ends of the floor.

Steve Nash Injury sign : Unlike World Peace, Steve Nash remains listed as “day-to-day” with hip and hamstring injuries.

Nash is considered “doubtful” for Tuesday’s game, but hopes to return to the court soon.

Chris Duhon Down arrow : With Nash out for an extended period of time, Chris Duhon was hopeful he would receive some meaningful minutes this past week.

Unfortunately for Duhon, coach D’Antoni seemed content in sticking with his 7-man rotation, and Duhon failed to appear in any games.

Darius Morris Down arrow : Like Duhon, Darius Morris looked to fill some backup point guard minutes in Nash’s absence.

Morris was also glued to the bench this week, only notching one minute in the loss to the Clippers.

Robert Sacre Down arrow : With a healthy Pau Gasol back in the lineup, it looks like reserve center Robert Sacre will remain on the bench for the rest of the season.

Sacre appeared in both games against the Mavericks and Clippers, but only in the waning minutes of each game.

Devin Ebanks Down arrow : Devin Ebanks has not appeared in a game since March 18th against the Phoenix Suns.

Stay tuned for next weeks’ Lakers Stock Watch as the Lakers attempt to catch Utah for the 8th seed battling New Orleans, Portland, Golden State and San Antonio.

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