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What the Lakers need to get out of the four remaining regular season games

Lj9ob7nc
So much for chasing San Antonio.

The tangible ramifications in the Lakers' current three-game losing streak makes it mathematically impossible for the Lakers (55-23) to surpass San Antonio (60-19) in the Western Conference standings, a carrot that everyone except Andrew Bynum said wasn't really important in achieving. It's a mixed message for sure. The Lakers are level-headed in that they're not being swayed by home-court advantage as this all golden prize that will suddenly dictate a three-peat (health and overall play proves more important). But with so many surrounding variables and the Lakers benefitting from having home-court advantage in the 2010 NBA Finals, why make it more difficult this time around?

Consider Phil Jackson's recent admittance on the his own contradictory views about home-court advantage. "That's something you always say, 'No you don't' when you don't have it," Jackson said about the importance of it. "Then you say it's really great to have when you do have it."

The Lakers have only four regular season games remaining, including Portland (Friday), Oklahoma City (Sunday), San Antonio (Tuesday) and Sacramento (Wednesday). With those games, the Lakers still have an opportunities to accomplish a few worth things heading into the postseason (explained below the jump).

1. Stay healthy - That's always going to be the most significant variable in determining the Lakers' three-peat. But don't equate the Lakers' recent skid as them simply pacing for the playoffs. Their even-keeled personality may show that these recent losses in the big picture may not mean much, but Phil Jackson's coaching decisions show he still wants to win these games. If they were really just pacing, Jackson wouldn't have played Lakers forward Pau Gasol Tuesday against Utah, knowing the MRI revealed he had a bone spur in his right knee. Jackson also wouldn't have played Kobe Bryant late in the fourth quarter against Golden State in hopes to come back. Still, Jackson's started to go down that path a little bit with sitting out Gasol for most of the fourth quarter against Golden State,  letting Bryant rest for most of the second quarter and keeping Andrew Bynum out late in the game against Denver because of precautionary concerns on his right knee.

2. The Lakers can still get home-court advantage against the Eastern Conference teams and Dallas. The Lakers trail the Chicago Bulls (57-20) by 2 1/2 games, have a two-game advantage over Dallas (53-25), a 1 1/2 game cushion over Miami (54-24) and a one-game edge over Boston (54-23). The Lakers are rightfully not overly consumed by this, but it seems like they'e shown more of a concern about having homecourt against Dallas than any of the Eastern Conference team. It'd be harder to navigate the postseason on the road for three consecutive playoff rounds, but home-court advantage seems to pay off more in the Finals given the 2-3-2 format.

3. Use playoff matchups as a measuring stick. Surely both teams will hold things back as all of them do in the regular season. But games against Portland (Friday), Oklahoma City (Sunday) and San Antonio (Tuesday) are all games the Lakers could possibly meet in the postseason. There's no need to give opponents a dose of confidence heading into the playoffs by allowing them a victory.

4. The bench needs to improve. Through the books of a nearly full season, the bench underachieved. They started off the season with Steve Blake showing a great understanding of the triangle, Shannon Brown improving his shooting stroke, Matt Barnes playing efficiently and aggressively and Theo Ratliff at least providing a few minutes to rest the Lakers' front line. But then it all fell apart. Blake has lacked confidence in his role and shooting stroke. Brown's remained inconsistent with his shooting percentage. Barnes hasn't looked the same since returning from a knee injury a month ago. And Ratliff has been a non-factor because of a four-month rehab stint on his surgically repaired left knee. They haven't had a proven track record in maintaining leads. But if they're able to make any sliver of progress the last four games, it will at least give the starters some rest. They better make the most of their chances because Jackson will use his starters more during the playoffs.

--Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Photo: Warriors guard Monta Ellis tries to strip the ball from Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, who is driving for a layup in the first half Wednesday night in Oakland. Credit: Ben Margot / Associated Press

 
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Just stopping by to give my continued support to the World Champion Los Angeles Lakers!

Looks like the SPURS are the hot ones now and the LAKERS are the cold ones. Cant wait until the SPURS show their dominance on April 12th.

Repost:

Well, this is a playoff team and as such, they've done their job because obviously, they clinched the division and they're in the playoffs. Of course these regular season losses are infuriating and we can find fault with every player in the roster but let’s wait for the playoffs before really trying to analyze this team's problems because in reality, we have no choice!

Without HCA, I still believe that this team cannot be beat in a series. They have time to make adjustments and the level of play is naturally increased which has nothing to do with the proverbial "switch." It's the playoffs and that "stuff" just happens; it's called competition.

This is a great road team and they can easily steal HCA by winning a game on the road. I just don't see Gasol being soft, lazy and transforming into a useless "wet noodle" as the games progress in the series and I do believe they will utilize the "inside - out" game much more which will catch a lot of teams off guard. By the time they make the adjustments, the opponents will be down a couple of games. Perhaps this whole Lakers "performance" is a "rope-a-dope" and the competition will be caught off guard. It will be fun analyzing the team's performance in the playoffs as only Lakers fans can.

I'm done with the regular season. It was disappointing in the sense that I wanted to see something “special” for Phil’s last season as the Lakers’ head coach. The team sure teased us in the beginning of the season and we were let down toward the end once reality set in that they will not catch Chicago or San Antonio. Now that that’s over, I can hardly wait for the playoffs to begin. Opponents may not be "shaking like virgins on prom night" right now, but that's all part of the element of surprise! “A military operation involves deception. Even though you are competent, appear to be incompetent. Though effective, appear to be ineffective.” The Art Of War


"Everything about the Lakers is geared toward winning playoff games. It's what they do." J.A. Adande


"Even when we didn’t make the playoffs, I thought we'd win the championship." Dr. Buss


"...they're shaking like virgins on prom night... Faithdalakerfan


Go Lakers & In Buss We Trust!!

Lakers need to stay ahead of Heat and Celtics in case of a Finals matchup. 2-3-2 format favors home team big time.

Bob's right. Health is the #1 need, followed by HCA against Boston or Miami. Everything else, including HCA over the Spurs & Bulls, is unnecessary.

@NBA4EVER ... It was a bummer of a game. The only good part was that my grandson and I had great seats on the lower level between the baskets and we arrived early and got to watch everybody warm up, including Kobe, who seemingly never misses a shot in warm-ups. The Warriors had taped BEAT LA signs to every one of the 20,000 seats in Oracle and we arrived so early we were sitting in a section with nothing but us and a lot of BEAT LA signs. So I moved down a couple of rows to take a photo of my grandson Nick and he had a true Lakers fan moment. As I got ready to snap the picture, Nick picked up the BEAT LA sign from his seat and tore it in half and held it up. What a great picture that turned out to be. I then had a Warriors fan take one of both of us with the torn BEAT LA signs. Before this game, I was 9-0 at Oracle for Lakers games. Anyway, we had a great time although I still believe we can win every game and will continue to believe that. LOL. We’ll definitely have to get the NorCal peeps together to watch some playoff basketball at a central sports bar.
............................................
TOM

Laker Tom - Thanks for the photos and hope you had fun at the game (besides the result of course)

all i saw last night was a veteran team that really wants the playoffs to start. they want to win and play hard, but it's obvious that they really don't want to get hurt playing as desperately as the teams whose seasons are really over, but who can feel good over the summer knowing that they did beat the champions once.

Talk about which way the wind is blowing, it's so funny that now the Spurs are the team to beat, after having lost 6 or 7 in a row. Lakers trip a couple three games after a 17-1 streak and are in deep trouble, ha, ha. The Heat are up and down, Celtics old and banged up. The Real Season is about to start, so we'll see if the sky is really falling soon enough. I agree that the number 1 seed for the Lakers is Health and Rest! Only Kobe plays every game like it's his last. Once the PO's start, we'll be fine.


@MM ... How could I not have fun spending the night with my grandson. I thought he showed the quality of his Lakers loyalty at just 10 years old. When I got ready to take the picture of him sitting surrounded by a sea of yellow BEAT LA signs, Nick did me proud by his spontaneously picking up the BEAT LA sign from his seat and tearing it in half as he smiled for his Lakers moment picture. That shot of him in his gold KB24 jersey holding up the two halves of the torn BEAT LA sign will forever be in my memory. I’m going to blow it up big and frame it and hang in it in my office.
............................................
TOM

LT,

What a great time you had with your grandson, really cool!! My son (now closing in on 30) and I used to go to a Laker game once a year and he's had his pic with Kobe and Shaq, Robert and Derek. Such fine memories!!

There is only one Championship Trophy. You're all great, and by pulling together; no calls and bad calls don't matter, there's always that feeling of unity that is the LAKERS. You're All Great and We Love YOU ALL..... Let each other shine, and be your best when the opportunity Shines and as a Team use unselfish play to keep them guessing, out of rhythm and off their game plan, whichever opponents we face... Power and Swiftness to the Men in Purple and Gold. I'm calmly confident that as a team you are, and laughing all the way to the victory parade!

@LakerTom

I think I'm like 6-0 for the Lakers at Oracle so I'm still undefeated lol!
That would be a great picture of your grandson, worth the price of admission. I saw those signs and thought of you ripping it up but I guess Nick beat you to it. Oh, and one more thing..........

The BEAST HAS ARRIVED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

stay thirsty my friends...

Great post MM - I especially agree with your point #3, about using these last few games as playoff matchup litmus tests - these are teams that must be made to realize that they'll have no real hope against the Lakers should they meet in these playoffs.
Yeah, I'm talkin' about you Portland, Oklahoma City and San Antonio!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RukUetw0hAM - Thunderstruck!


@DJ ... Thanks for the comments. I remember your great stories about getting autographs. LOL. I’ve never approached players for autographs but the thought did go through my mind last night since we were pretty close to the floor.
...
On a different note, I’m getting a little worried about your ability to hit .300. I thought you worked hard in the offseason to improve your defensive range and get your hitting stroke back. Whasup?
............................................
@NBA4EVER ... Good thing you didn’t go to the game last night or it would have killed your streak too. LOL. You know, I didn’t even think of ripping the sign up. That was all Nick spontaneously earning his Lakers stripes and doing his grandpa and dad proud. Couldn’t have been more proud of the kid. Emailed the photo to his dad, mom, and grandma and 10,000 of my best friends. LOL. Drew was a beast on the boards last night but couldn’t hit a free throw and didn’t block a shot.
............................................
TOM

@LT - there ought to be a law on which arena has the right to use the 'Beat LA' slogan. Like you know, they should have been at least to the NBA Finals.

******BACK-POST******


Unfortunately, the can be no rest for the weary. Although, if Pau needs to rest his bone bruise, the coaching staff should make sure he does just that.

Everyone's talking about the Bulls, Spurs and Keltics. Spurs talk is over for HCA. As far as the Bulls and Keltics, their in the East.

Although remote in chance, Second and even Third Seed is still in jeopardy. Having the tie breaker only works if you're tied.

Dallas is 53-25 and has winnable games against the Clippers, Suns, Rockets and Hornets. Unless Dallas loses to the Clippers or Suns (possible, but unlikely), the Lakers need to focus and win these next two games.

OKC is 52-26 and, besides playing the Lakers on Sunday (which I expect to be a dogfight), have winnable games against Denver, Sacramento and Milwaukee. Again, unless OKC loses to Denver in OKC (again, possible, but less likely) they need to win one game to assure that they don't drop into the fourth seed.

 Although dropping to the Fourth Seed is highly unlikely, there is an even stronger reason for beating OKC on Sunday. If Dallas loses at least 2 games (a possibility since Dallas is either going to wright the ship or continue to falter these last four games) and OKC were to win out (or win 3 games if Dallas loses 3), then OKC would be the Lakers Second Round opponent. That would give the Spurs the easier route to the Western Conference Finals.

 Therefore, my thought is win the next two games and then limit the starters minutes against the Spurs and the Kings.

Again, if Pau's bone bruise needs rest to heal, then LO should sacrifice his chance at Sixth Man of the Year and step back into the starting lineup. What's more important? A Team Championship or an Individual Honor?

With that said, each player on this team should adopt the following mantra towards their fellow teammates:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Wpof8s5ZTg&feature=youtube_gdata_player

KOBE BEAN BRYANT IS "THE LOGO OF PROFESSIONALISM!"

LAMAR ODOM IS "THE SWISS ARMY KNIFE!"

"AND THE BEAST GOES ON..."

"Anyway, we had a great time although I still believe we can win every game and will continue to believe that.

Posted by: LakerTom | April 07, 2011 at 12:20 PM
"

This is unfortunately my attitude also, which is why I get down on them when they blow it for no good reason! I don't like it, but can at least understand when they put out a good/full effort and still may lose to a better team that night/imbalanced refs/lucky bounces/etc. What I cannot excuse is lack of effort/pride/hustle/execution, which are the reasons they are losing these games like the last 3!


what i'd like to see happen in the last four games of the season, is getting the ball down low in the post to bynum and gasol. when the Lakers won 3 titles in row, 2000, 2001 and 2002, there was a steady diet of feeding shaq down low. now that 'drew has matured into the player that we hoped he would be, the time has come to feed the BEAST! we have two 7 footers who are great around the basket! not to use them is insane! i love kobe as much as the next person, BUT his game is not the same anymore. it doesn't mean he's still not a great player or closer, but age does catch up with everyone sooner or later. fact, last night was kobe shot 50% from the field for the first time since the clippers game. that was 7 games ago. it's up to the coaching staff to get him to buy into feeding the low post with bynum and gasol. 'drew has become fairly adept at reading the double teams and passing out. he's much improved in that area. bynum has a great assortment of low post moves, wheras shaq just bullied his way to the basket. the time come to release the beast, bynum into being an integral part of the Lakers offense! fyi, of the Lakers 23 losses this year. 10 of the losses are to teams below .500, including the jazz twice. above .500 teams 13 losses with 2 coming from denver, memphis, miami and san antonio

And besides Bynum's great rebounding EFFORT recently, the only good news I could come up with is:

NBA/ABA
Rank Player PTS
1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar* 38387
2. Karl Malone* 36928
3. Michael Jordan* 32292
4. Wilt Chamberlain* 31419
5. Julius Erving* 30026
6. Moses Malone* 29580
7. Shaquille O'Neal 28596
8. Kobe Bryant 27750

*=HOFamer

Looks like Kobe will pass both Shaq and Moses next year on the combo ABA/NBA list!

Dr. J and Wilt the next year.

MJ year after that.

Karl 2 more years after that if.....................he sticks around and no injuries.

Hard to see passing Kareem, but could if he somehow played to age 40.

He can pass MJ in points but i don't see him passing my MJ in anything else..

BTW I never saw MJ ever looking at his hands after fumbling the ball on a final possession.. LOL .. typical kobe Cryant blame n e 1 but himself.. wat he is frankistein.. those hands r not mine..

Don't like Phillup but he said it not n e 1 else.. MJ had bigger hands ..

enjoy watching the finals... where Artest has to come to rescue ur garden snake..

Team is dull......appears confused...needs another scorer from the field..........could end up 0 and 4. Enough of this playing 3 on 5. I'd bench Fisher and use him in reserve and try Barnes.

We won't make it with last years line up.


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