Jan 9, 2013; San Antonio, TX, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (24) leaves the court after the Lakers 108-105 loss to the San Antonio Spurs at the AT
Who else loves seeing the look that Kobe is portraying in the photo above? When the outcome does not go his way that is the look of one pissed off man. Pissed off at himself? Of course not, he is Kobe Bryant, it is never his fault that the Lakers suffer defeat.
You should all know that by now.
Well, Sunday night the Lakers are going to have to do it without their leader. What he initially feared – that he sustained a torn Achilles tendon in Friday’s 118-116 home win over Golden State – was confirmed after the game, and he underwent season-ending surgery Saturday.
The 34-year-old superstar is in for an arduous rehab process, but said he is aiming to be ready for the start of next season even though recovery time is expected to be six to nine months. That still leaves the Lakers (43-37) without one of the game’s best players for the final two games of their schedule, which concludes at home against Houston on Wednesday.
They own a one-game advantage over Utah for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot but lost that head-to-head tiebreaker, so the Lakers must finish at least a game better than the Jazz to make the playoffs for an eighth straight year. Wins in each of their final two games would secure a postseason berth, while a loss in either would see them anxiously awaiting how the Jazz finish with games at Minnesota on Monday and Memphis on Wednesday.
Bryant’s injury is the latest and most devastating in a dysfunctional Lakers season that has also seen prolonged absences by Pau Gasol and Steve Nash, who has missed six in a row with a hamstring injury and is listed as doubtful for Sunday.
Jan 9, 2013; San Antonio, TX, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward Metta World Peace (15) drives against San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) during the second half at the AT
In my eyes, without Kobe Bryant, this team has no chance. Bryant had season averages of 27.3 points, 6.0 assists and 5.6 rebounds. Who will take his spot? Know one can take his spot, but Jodie Meeks will assume the starting shooting guard role. Meeks has averaged 7.5 points and shot 33.3 percent in eight starts.
The Spurs (58-21) guaranteed they would finish no lower than the second seed with Friday’s 108-101 win over the Kings coupled with Denver’s loss to Dallas.
But San Antonio’s frontcourt will also be slightly short-handed moving forward as the club decided to waive Stephen Jackson on Friday, and Boris Diaw is expected to miss three to four weeks after undergoing surgery to remove a cyst from his lumbar spine. Manu Ginobili (strained hamstring) has sat out the last seven games and will miss the final three of the regular season.
Tony Parker returned to the lineup on Friday against the Kings. In his return he had 22 points and 10 assists – this marked his 17th double-double of the season. On the season, Parker is averaging 23.0 all the way of shooting 58% in the last four meetings against the Laker – all San Antonio wins this season.
Heading into Los Angeles Sunday night, where the Spurs picked up one win this year, there are still some areas San Antonio needs to concentrate on if they want to walk out with a win.
- Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard. The Spurs have seen them just one time this season (November 13, 2012). They were both out the second meeting in January with injuries. In that first meeting, the Spurs did a remarkable job on Gasol and Howard. They combined to score just 23 points, 8-of-19 from the floor. Spurs have to come in with the same mind frame of keeping both of them off of the blocks and the boards. They are great rebounders. Make them earn their points. It is no surprise to know that Howard is not a great free throw shooter.
- Limit Turnovers. Tony Parker is back. That should be a good thing right? Well San Antonio seems to get out of control a little and tries to force passes where they can’t get through. This past Friday against the Kings, 16. The last meeting with the Lakers back in January, 18 turnovers.
- Bench Play. The bench played farely well against the Kings as they scored 29 points. It was good to see Matt Bonner get out of his shooting slump dropping 11. Gary Neal will hoist up shots from anywhere on the floor. He needs to keep in mind, move the ball, move the ball, and do it some more, it will come back to him.
- Tony Parker Is Key. Only having one game under his belt from his ankle/sore neck injury, it is important for San Antonio to let Parker get into a rhythm with the starters again with the playoffs right around the corner. I look for Parker to come out like gang busters…..wait!!! What? You read it. Parker will come out and produce early and often. He will attack the rim to get himself into the form that we all like to see. The Lakers are not a great pick-and-roll team, they have shown this all season long. I see a little Parker and Duncan, Parker and Splitter, Parker and Blair combinations on the floor to try and exploit their lack of defense on the pick and rolls.