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Least consequential loss of Lakers' season

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PostWysłany: Śro 5:42, 04 Maj 2011 Temat postu: Least consequential loss of Lakers' season

Least consequential loss of Lakers' season
Andrew Bynum did not play, which surprised no one at the time. But Kobe Bryant sat out that game because of swelling in right knee that was telling him his season should be ending, not beginning.
Without Bryant, Pau Gasol was singled out by Phil Jackson for late-game failures: “He exposed the ball.” And consummate teammates Lamar Odom and Derek Fisher fumbled the final chance at victory each trying to call a play for himself.
Jackson also said after that loss to Denver a year ago: “We haven’t had a stretch of games when we’ve played consistently well.”
As in, all season.
The Lakers had reason to be nervous about how far they could go in the 2010 NBA playoffs. They wound up winning another title by the hair on [link widoczny dla zalogowanych]
Flash forward to this early April and this loss to the Nuggets on Sunday:
Asked about the ramifications of this loss -- and the chances for home-court advantage in possible series against San Antonio or Chicago definitely took a hit -- Bryant laughed … pretty close to uncontrollably. He smiled big and called a reporter a “smart-(aleck)” for asking a later question about San Antonio.
Indeed, it had been just 40 hours earlier in Utah that Bryant had actually said this about securing a higher seed and home-court advantage over the Spurs: “It means nothing.”
The reason he dared set that bar so low is that he had this ground-zero summation for where the Lakers stand: “We’re right where we want to be.”
Bryant had been pounded on that tender right knee in Utah, struggling for several minutes to shake it off after Utah center Kyrylo Fesenko stuck his knee out just enough when Bryant was trying to squeeze past on a drive. Bryant’s knee was a problem all last postseason and eventually required its third surgery, and although it’ll never be great, it remained good enough after the blow from Fesenko that Bryant harked back to that Bruce Willis-style bravado he certainly wasn’t using late last season.
“Kitty cats can’t hurt me,” Bryant said of Fesenko.
After the letdown to the Nuggets at Staples Center, Bryant was off to join the rest of the team at a post-loss party. Yes, it was a party -- even though it was the annual casino night held to benefit the Lakers Youth Foundation -- and partying was not inappropriate given the optimism that still swirled in the Lakers’ locker room after losing for the second time in 19 games [link widoczny dla zalogowanych]
It was a completely predictable slip when coming back early Sunday after big back-to-back efforts Thursday against Dallas and Friday in Utah. No one said so explicitly about the loss, but we might as well regurgitate Bryant’s same quote here about this result: “It means nothing.”
To understand just how much more the game mattered to the Nuggets, consider what Denver’s Wilson Chandler said about it afterward: “It was definitely a playoff atmosphere.”
Those of you dozing off on the couch at home while trying to watch this game know this was obviously not a playoff atmosphere. Those at the game know that seeing how long Will Ferrell would let his toddler son pound Daddy's head with cheer sticks was more compelling than the early part of the game. But forgive Wilson, who has actually never been in a playoff game in his four-year NBA career.
The Nuggets are trying hard every night, trying to prove something since the Carmelo Anthony trade. These are the teams that show up unready to give the necessary extra in the playoffs and quickly get shown the door, as Denver will if it faces Oklahoma City.
The Lakers, meanwhile, have no fear of anyone after how many great games they’ve played since the last time Odom botched a box-out and they lost to a Western Conference opponent: against the Spurs two months ago.
There were so many questions then. They’ve all been answered by now.
The Lakers wouldn’t mind if Shannon Brown stopped playing like [link widoczny dla zalogowanych]
Gasol: “We just gave them too many chances.”
Bynum: “We just thought they would lay down. … We didn’t play very hard in the second half.”
Even Jackson estimated that two-thirds of the Lakers’ 20 turnovers were unforced. And after losing, the Lakers need only go 3-3 the rest of the way to meet Jackson’s once-challenging goal of last season’s 57-25 record
The Lakers have regained their confidence and swagger. They’ll take the game from someone or possibly give it away. It’s on them -- not anyone else in this league.
It’s actually a better place than the Lakers have been at any point in recent years.
They couldn’t be absolutely sure what they had two years ago after blowing the previous NBA Finals to Boston. [link widoczny dla zalogowanych]
Last season, as we’ve already discussed, they were just trying to patch it together to the end.
This season, they know. They already know.
So, if you ask about everything else? It means nothing.

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