Despite Kobe Bryant injury, Lakers make Playoffs
Kobe Bryant tore his Achilles muscle last Friday, and many wrote off the Los Angeles Lakers as not having a chance to do anything in the playoffs. However, a funny thing happened after that; the Lakers started winning, and winning in impressive fashion, pounding teams with their dual big man threat of Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard.
They defeated the San Antonio Spurs 91-86 on Sunday, and then beat the Houston Rockets in a thrilling 99-95 overtime game on Wednesday to cap the season. Best of all for the Lake Show?
Instead of claiming the No. 8 seed and facing the Oklahoma City Thunder like many expected, the Lakers’ win over the Rockets propelled them into the No. 7 seed in the West. That means that they’ll face an extremely injured and seemingly beatable San Antonio Spurs team in the first round of the playoffs , makes basketball betting odds exciting and unpredictable at the same time.
However, it isn’t just Howard and Gasol that have stepped up their games in Bryant’s absence. L.A.’s role players have been sensational, too. Lakers guard Steve Blake scored 23 points against the Spurs and 24 points against the Rockets.
“I’m proud of the whole team and the way they stepped up at the end of the year,” said Blake. “We definitely expected more at the beginning of the year, but we’re proud we’re here. … I couldn’t believe it when a couple of days ago somebody said we even had a chance to be in the seventh spot, and now we’re there.”
It’s hard to think of the perennially successful Lakers as a struggling franchise, but they were not able to put together any stretches of sustained brilliance this season until the very end. Kobe Bryant had one of his best seasons ever, averaging almost 28 points per game, but, strangely enough, the team seems to have found a real identity without him in the lineup.
As good as he is, Kobe tends to dominate the ball and eat up a lot of possessions, possessions that Dwight Howard and Gasol can’t utilize. Another big part of their recent success is coach Mike D’Antoni finally being forced to play Howard and Gasol together, a lineup he seemed very averse to playing earlier in the year.
This gives the Lakers a raw size and physical advantage that they simply didn’t have before, and they could easily overwhelm the smaller San Antonio Spurs in the paint. Despite the gap in their seeding, I think the Los Angeles Lakers are going to pull the rare NBA postseason upset and defeat the San Antonio Spurs.
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By Lucas Millan