Leave it to the Lake Show to drop the curtain on the regular season with a third act straight out of Hollywood. Two must win games were only the window dressing. What was waiting behind the curtain was the real story.
You can’t invent this stuff.
Kobe Bryant controversy, injuries, blown leads, overtime heroics and a potential chicken pox outbreak highlighted the last two days in Laker Land.
It all began with a 5 game losing streak coming on the heels of the best ball the Lakers had played all season long. All of the three-peat talk was put on hold after Sunday’s 4th quarter meltdown against Oklahoma City.
Suddenly the G.I. Joe Kung-Fu grip the Lakers had on the 2 seed was loosened as both the Mavericks and Thunder had designs on leapfrogging the two time champions. As if that weren’t enough, waiting for the Lakers on the back end of the OKC collapse were the top seeded Spurs.
Mere hours before the opening tip, it was announced that the Lakers were going to be without two key contributors off the bench. Matt Barnes was dealing with knee issues and Steve Blake contracted chicken pox. While Blake was quickly removed from the locker room there is still cause for concern as three Lakers – KB24 among them – have never had the infamous illness.
Before the start of the game a little air was taken out of Staples when it was announced that Greg Popovich was going to rest his top three players. The knee jerk assumption was that this would be a cake walk. But you know that they say about assumptions.
Halfway through the second quarter the sum of all fears was realized as Andrew Bynum sat motionless on the floor having hyperextend his bum knee. So quiet was the Staples crowd that you could hear the sweat dripping from Mitch Kupchak’s brow.
Meanwhile, the TNT cameras managed to catch Kobe at an inopportune moment. The best player on the planet would quickly go from G.O.A.T. to goat as he tossed out a homophobic obscenity that has set off a fire storm of controversy.
The listless Lakers slept walked through three quarters against the depleted Spurs before flipping that notorious switch. Lamar Odom abused San Antonio in the second half as the Lakers moved back into second in the West.
But the real drama was just starting.
On any other day, all of Laker Nation would have waited breathlessly for the results of Bynum’s MRI. Instead, the day after was full of Kobe talk. Bryant has since issued a couple of apologies and explanations for his slur. For good measure David Stern even took a cool $100,000 out of Vanessa’s spending fund. But this story isn’t going away anytime soon. We’ll be hearing about this plenty in the coming days.
Oh…Bynum’s MRI revealed a bone bruise. He’ll be ready to go this Sunday when the run at a three-peat begins.
No rest for the weary. The Lakers were off to Sacramento where there was drama-o-plenty waiting.
Over the years the Los Angeles-Sacramento rivalry has been everything from tense to tumultuous. Who can ever forget the epic playoff battles amid all those cowbells in Cali’s capital? As it turns out, last night’s OT thriller might just have been the final curtain call for Sacramento hoops.
Early on it looked like the Lake Show was going to drop the curtain on the Kings in unceremonious fashion.
A crowd ready to be rowdy was being treated to a thrashing at the hands of their enemies. But you know these Lakers and their light foot on the pedal. Sure enough a 20 point lead shrank until it was a three point deficit.
Enter the best closer to ever play the game.
Mamba didn’t do his team any favors by making some questionable decisions late. But if #24 is in the building then you know there is always hope. With all the momentum going Sacramento’s way, Bryant buried a three to tie this thing up.
Overtime! How else could this season end?
OT opened with Derek Fisher dialing up his usual heroics. A three to begin the extra period set the tone. The Kings battled back to take the lead but this one was all Lake Show late as LO’s And-One closed the door on Sacramento’s comeback.
Around the league there was plenty of drama to go around as well. The Clippers nearly gave away a huge lead to Memphis. Had the Grizzlies pulled that one out they would have met with the Lakers in the first round. Instead it’s the New Orleans Hornets that will visit Staples on Sunday.
What a regular season it’s been. It is only fitting that all of these things would come to a head just before the playoffs.
What do the Lakers do for an encore? Hopefully they’ll give Mayor Villaraigosa and his city planners a tense week of negotiating for a parade in June. But as well all know there is plenty that has to go down before that happens.
Buckle up, Laker fans. The real season starts Sunday. Get your popcorn ready!