Well, things can’t seem to get any worse now can they?
Heading into tonight’s game with the Spurs, the Lakers were at a crossroad. They had lost five straight games, and faced the possibility of dropping down to fourth in the standings. They could win out, get the two seed, and enjoy an easier path to the Finals, or lose one of two (or both), and most likely go three straight rounds without home-court. After tonight, though, the Lakers have much, much BIGGER problems.
A few hours before game time, news came out that Steve Blake had come down with the chicken pox. To make matters worse, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest and Andrew Bynum have never had the virus, increasing their chances of obtaining it. Yes, it’s just what the Lakers needed to worry about before a big game.
To make matters even worse, Matt Barnes had re-injured his problematic knee, meaning he’d be out the last two games and possibly even longer. Basically L.A. was looking at heading into the playoffs with a possible seven man rotation, with D-League call-up Trey Johnson and seldom used Luke Walton having to “step in” to make it nine.
And then the game started. L.A. looked disinterested (again), and was barely beating San Antonio’s scrubs. Despite their early struggles, it seemed L.A. would survive with a W, albeit a difficult one.
Yet the Basketball Gods had a different idea. They wanted to mix things up for L.A. With the Lakers seemingly playing bored the past week and a half or so, it was in their cards to be faced with some true adversity.
Enter Andrew Bynum. No, scratch that. Enter Andrew Bynum’s knee. Yet again, it failed him.
After slipping on DeJuan Blair‘s (dirty) foot, Bynum feel in obviously excruciating pain. His knee is labeled as hyper-extended and out at least 4-5 days or so. To me, he’ll most likely be missing at least Games 1 and 2.
Look, as long as L.A. plays New Orleans, which seems like the most likely scenario, the Lakers can and should rest Bynum. Why rush to bring him back, when the Lakers can easyil beat the Hornets even without Bynum?
The Hornets are a depleted team, with their sidekick star and leading scorer David West out for the rest of the playoffs. Even with West, the Lakers would beat the Hornets in five games tops.
As good as Chris Paul is, he’s playing at 75-80% or so. He can possibly win a game by himself, but with his lack of an ensemble cast, I highly doubt it. Emeka Okafor and Carl Landry are solid big men, but they’re both respectively 6’9 and 6’7 (generously). Trevor Ariza is a good defender, but struggles to score in an efficient manner on offense.
In fact, even without Bynum the Lakers should sweep the Hornets. Maybe, and I mean maybe, they lose one game.
Let Bynum rest his knee, gain stamina for the long playoff run, and return for a second round bloodbath with the Dallas Mavericks.
This all depends on tomorrow’s games, though. If L.A. loses and Dallas wins, L.A. will be the three seed and face Portland (this is definitely the worst-case scenario). If L.A. wins, they will end up the two seed regardless, most likely resulting in a match-up with New Orleans.
Despite escaping L.A. with a 102-93 victory over the undermanned Spurs, the Lakers have no easy task tomorrow. The Kings will be playing their last home game at Arco Arenaever, and will be amped to play and beat L.A. in front of a sold-out crowd.
Anther big game for tomorrow is Memphis’. If Memphis loses (which they most likely will after tanking today), the LakeShow will take their talents to New Orleans in Games 3 and 4. If the Grizzlies win, and the Hornets lose against Dallas (their game tomorrow), then L.A. could face the underrated Grizz in round one.
Regardless of home-court and match-ups, L.A. NEEDS BYNUM TO BE HEALTHY. Without him (and without Blake and Barnes possibly), Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom will be forced to play 38-42 minutes each and every night. While this sounds good in theory (we want them playing more than say, Joe Smith, Theo Ratliff, or Derrick Caracter), it isn’t realistic in he grand scheme of things. Gasol and Odom need rest for the long haul, as both have played long stretches when Bynum has been out.
After today, things can’t get any worse (hopefully). The Lakers will have to ride the storm, and if they achieve their goal by winning their third straight championship (and making their fourth straight NBA Finals), this will be the most impressive championship run I have ever seen.