The Los Angeles Lakers may or may not have a coaching problem. (Certainly they have a popularity-of-their-coach problem, not exactly alleviated when ESPN Stats and Info noted Mike D”Antoni became on Wednesday night the first Lakers coach in franchise history to lose his first two playoff games. Woe be the mustachioed West Virginian the next time he needs to make a grocery run.)
But D”Antoni has nothing to do with why the Lakers are , nor why they”ll be lucky to win a game given the myriad health problems facing the squad.
The Lakers just don”t have nearly enough talent available to win four times against a group as good as the Spurs. Steve Nash isn”t close to healthy, and even before Wednesday”s hamstring pull asking Steve Blake to help carry an offense generally benefits the opposing defense. Lord knows every rung Metta World Peace moves up the scoring ladder does the same. Darius Morris is a hard worker with potential, but has no business playing meaningful minutes on a team with hopes of playoff advancement. Jodie Meeks, in a horrible slump anyway, couldn”t play at all Wednesday.
Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard are game, but the Spurs are too smart defensively to let either do sustained damage when so little surrounds them.
The Lakers used a ton of energy just to make it to the playoffs, both before Kobe was injured and after. Now they resemble a Pacific salmon at the end of a run. All that admirable, upstream work for the business of spawning, without the energy to do anything at the end but die.
Three games into their Mamba-less era, a few factors for the Lakers have been reliable enough to gain a Swiss watch”s admiration. On the positive side, the Lakers are newly recommitted to the defensive side of the floor, and for the time being have been very effective. Opponents have been held to under 38 percent in each, and in Sunday”s Game 1 against the Spurs in San Antonio, Steve Blake in particular was phenomenal while checking Tony Parker.
Unfortunately, the other steady trend is the struggle to score, something the Lakers couldn”t overcome Sunday. The outside shooting was especially dreadful, mitigating the size advantage of Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard. The Lakers fell 91-79 to the Spurs, and time at the drawing board remains necessary in order to pull an upset.
We reacted to the loss and other emerging storylines, and looked ahead to Wednesday”s Game 2. Among the talking points:
- Before we even discuss Game 1, what”s with Kasa de Kobe suddenly becoming the place to be? Derek Fisher spent a decade-plus as Kobe”s teammates without ever stepping foot inside Chateau Bryant, and now the place is Grand Central Station. Brian offers a theory as to why The Mamba is suddenly okay with guests popping by. Also, to paraphrase MTV Diary, you think you know how buried Devin Ebanks is, but you have no idea.
- With the Lakers now down 0-1 to San Antonio, what are the big takeaways? Are the Lakers failing to milk their size advantage? Can Steve Nash improve on a disappointing Game 1? Is there anything that can be done to even up the series heading back to L.A.?
- The game”s biggest storyline, however, might have been the Great Kobe Bryant Twitter Controversy. Mike D”Antoni didn”t appreciate 24″s in-game commentary (or at the very least, having to be asked about it) and his on-podium response rubbed many the wrong way, sparking debate over whether Bryant overstepped his boundaries in 140 characters or less, or the media was simply chumming the waters. ?
- Speaking of D”Antoni, everyone questions whether his system makes him a bad fit in L.A., but is there a bigger problem flying under the radar?
After 82 games” worth of drama — and if we”re being honest with ourselves, a fair amount of doubt — the Lakers are officially in the playoffs. And as a seven-seed no less, pitting them against a banged up, slumping San Antonio Spurs rather than an Oklahoma City Thunder squad easily capable of a sweep. Finally, this snake-bitten squad catches something of a break! Who”da thunk it?
Not to say everything is a second helping of peaches and cream, of course. Kobe Bryant is still out. Steve Nash”s , and even if he can take the court, his effectiveness is a looming question. And recent skid acknowledged, there”s no denying the Spurs have been a far superior team all season.
So how will Lakers vs. Spurs shake out? These and other issues are chopped up. Among the talking points:
- What are the key matchups and issues in a series against the Spurs? Does San Antonio have any weaknesses L.A. can exploit? How problematic is Kobe”s absence? How dangerous is Gregg Popovich armed with a whiteboard and time to plan?
- Who advances to the second round?
- We break down two more especially intriguing series: Nuggets-Warriors and Clippers-Grizzlies.
- The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame just celebrated its newest class. Do we take any issue with Lou Adler, Heart, Quincy Jones, Albert King, Randy Newman, Public Enemy, Rush or Donna Summer as inductees? Plus, cases for and against a few currently snubbed bands.
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This week's column for Sheridan Hoops is a playoff preview. And, fortunately, it includes the Lakers!
(There were a few moments where we weren't sure that would be an option.)
The theme: 5 Key Factors for Lakers vs. Spurs, starting Sunday afternoon in San Antonio.
- Pau Gasol vs. TIMMEH!
- Who generates his own shot for the Lakers?
- Just how healthy are San Antonio's stars? (Or, if you prefer, just how unhealthy are they?)
- The Shadow of Phil now becomes The Presence Of Pop. What's at stake for Mike D'Antoni?
- How do the Lakers stop Tony Parker?
Plus, my series prediction.
Read the entire column here.