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Category: San Antonio Spurs

Lakers shouldn't see early playoff adversities as lessons

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Considering each run to a championship a journey, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson has compared that process to a school year.

The season proves just as long. There are plenty of ups and downs. And there are plenty of teachable moments.

"It's a process that for me I've had great fortune in looking at seasons as something of a long haul where it's going to be an eight-month or seven-and-a-half month project," Jackson said before the 2010-2011 season started. "But in reality, you still have to give import to this opening game or this next game next week or this preseason game."

It's a tough balancing act between ensuring that team members strategically pace themselves without mailing in performances, and ensuring that they play sharp basketball without burning out. The most telling example is the San Antonio Spurs, who looked mostly sharp throughout the season en route to a Western Conference-leading 61-21 record, only to lose a six-game first-round playoff series to the Memphis Grizzlies.

Lakers guard Derek Fisher once argued that the team needs challenges and adversities because that allows for "true growth." That's fair enough, but save those lessons for the regular season.

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Lakers' injury list exacerbates concerns over play following 102-93 victory over San Antonio Spurs

60858930Folding his arms across his knees and burying his head down, Lakers center Andrew Bynum sat on the court.

He had just lost his balance while trying to track down San Antonio Spurs forward DeJuan Blair, a sequence that caused his left knee to slip underneath him. Bynum then grabbed his right knee, a discomforting visual for any Lakers fan, considering Bynum's well-documented injury history. But Bynum stood up and walked off the court as Lakers forward Pau Gasol patted him on the head. Soon enough, Bynum walked toward the locker room with trainer Gary Vitti following.

The Lakers' 102-93 victory Tuesday over the Spurs at Staples Center gives them a clearer look at the playoff picture, considering that L.A. can secure the No. 2 seed with a victory Wednesday at Sacramento and/or a Dallas Mavericks loss Wednesday against the New Orleans Hornets. But here's something that even has bigger implications: An unhealthy Bynum will severely dampen the Lakers' hopes to three-peat. Of course, the Lakers will have a better idea about the severity of Bynum's injury once he receives an MRI Wednesday, skipping the team's flight to Sacramento. But given Bynum's injury history, it's more realistic to expect a prolonged absence than a short one, even if he insists otherwise. 

"It's not really that bad," Bynum said while walking down a Staples Center hallway after the game. "It was painful right when it happened, but it's not that bad right now."

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L.A. Times' Mark Medina on Lakers' 102-93 victory over San Antonio Spurs

--Mark Medina

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

Lakers vs. San Antonio: Lakers snap losing streak, but lose Andrew Bynum to injury

Andrew5 Lakers 102, Spurs 93 (final)

The Lakers had to endure the bad news about injuries to center Andrew Bynum and forward Matt Barnes and the illness of guard Steve Blake.

But there was some good news for the Lakers: They broke a season-high five-game losing streak, defeating the San Antonio Spurs, who didn't play Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker.

The Lakers are tied with the Dallas Mavericks for the second-best record in the Western Conference, but L.A. owns the tiebreaker that would give it the No. 2 playoff seeding if the teams finish tied.

The Lakers can secure the second seeding with a victory over the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night.

If the Lakers lose and the Mavericks defeat the New Orleans Hornets, the Lakers will slide to the third spot and Dallas will be second.

Bynum suffered a hyperextended right knee in the second quarter and didn't return to the game. He will have an MRI  exam Wednesday and will not travel with the team to Sacramento for the regular-season finale against the Kings.

Barnes has a sore right knee that kept him out of the game and Blake was home with chicken pox.

Kobe Bryant, who picked up his 15th technical foul on the season, led the Lakers with 27 points.

Lamar Odom contributed 23 points and seven rebounds off the bench for the Lakers.

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How would the Lakers match up with San Antonio in the playoffs?

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This is the last thing the Lakers should be reading or discussing.

They're in the midst of a five-game losing streak. They aren't even sure whether they'll finish as a No. 2 seed or drop down to No. 4. And they've demonstrated such a riddling amount of inconsistency, that it's plausible they wouldn't even advance this far in the postseason to see such an outcome.

So why on Earth am I analyzing how the Lakers and San Antonio Spurs would match up in the playoffs? Give me a break. The Lakers will turn things around. They just have to prove that they will. As Kobe Bryant said, "Everybody wants to put the nail in the coffin, but we've been there before and it doesn't bother us."

That's why it's plausible that the Lakers and Spurs matchup Tuesday at Staples Center won't be the last time they meet this season. The Lakers can take care of their responsibilities, secure the No. 2 seed and meet the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. Or they may end the season on a seven-game losing streak, drop down to No. 4 and face a tougher road by playing the Spurs in the West semifinals. Either way, it would be one great series.

"I love those guys, but at the same time, I want to beat the hell out of them," Bryant said of the Spurs. "But I have a lot of a lot of respect for what they do and how they do it."

After the jump, I size up how each team could win.

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Five things Lakers need to end five-game losing streak against San Antonio

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The stakes are fairly obvious.

Each Lakers win or loss in the two remaining regular-season games has playoff-seeding implications, with the possibility the Lakers could secure the No. 2 seed in the West or the possibility they could drop all the way to No. 4. Likewise, the way the Lakers finish determines who they will meet in the first round, with the best draw being the New Orleans Hornets, a mixed bag being the Memphis Grizzlies or the Portland Trail Blazers and the worst-case scenario being the red-hot Denver Nuggets.

I've already broken down how these situations would unfold, so there's no need to sift through that again. The Lakers' formula for the remaining regular-season games, however, is pretty simple.

"There's nothing we can do about it except play better [on Tuesday]," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. "I told these guys that we played better for 42, 44 minutes [Sunday], something like that. So, that's a good sign. We have signs that we're starting to recover. The ailing patient is starting to recover."

Below the jump are five things the Lakers need to address:

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Caught in the Web: Lakers prepare for San Antonio Spurs

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--The Times' Mike Bresnahan highlights the Lakers' confident attitude and mentions that Kobe Bryant's technical foul from Sunday's game against Oklahoma City was rescinded.

--NBA.com's David Aldridge picks Lakers forward Lamar Odom as the NBA's sixth man of the year. 

--The Orange County Register's Janis Carr lists 10 things the Lakers need to fix before the playoffs start.

--ESPN.com's John Hollinger dissects the Lakers' five-game losing streak. 

--ESPN Los Angeles' Andy Kamenetzky looks at what would make a Lakers-Thunder playoff series so compelling.

--Sports Illustrated's Zach Lowe explains why Kobe Bryant is on his second all-NBA team. 

--ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin details the Lakers' quest to end their losing streak. 

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Looking at the various scenarios for the Lakers to secure home-court advantage against San Antonio and/or Dallas

The Lakers would rather avoid engaging in this exercise, knowing that winning games will quell any uncertainty about their standing in the Western Conference. But with the Lakers (53-20) trailing the San Antonio Spurs (57-17) by 3 1/2 games for first place in the conference and holding a one-game lead over the Dallas Mavericks (52-21) for second place with nine games remaining, it sure is tempting to see what needs to happen for everything to fall into place. That's why the intrigue surrounding Thursday's game against Dallas remains pretty obvious. Not only would a win give the Lakers a needed cushion against the Mavericks, it could close the gap against the Spurs if San Antonio can't end a four-game losing streak Thursday against Boston.

"Whatever is going to happen is going to happen," Lakers forward Pau Gasol said. "The thing we have to keep in mind is continue to play well and continue to win. If that means we catch them and pass them, great. If it doesn't, we move on."

It' s understandable that the Lakers don't want to pay attention to the various scenarios to secure home-court advantage against both San Antonio and Dallas, but surely Lakers fans want to know what it would take. Below the jump is a detailed rundown on what would need to happen.

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