Will the Lakers make the NBA finals?

April 27, 2010

Bryant isn't himself

Mark Heisler

Los Angeles Times

No. At least not in their present version, with Kobe Bryant less of a factor than he has been since he became a starter in 1999 at 21.

For all the controversy constantly whirling around him, Bryant's greatness has been the one thing the Lakers always could count on. He pulled off so many miracles, they seemed commonplace, like last spring's 14-point fourth quarter in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals, bringing the Lakers back from an eight-point deficit with the Nuggets set to take a 2-1 series lead.

Either by design — and that would be one messed-up design — or because he's hiding injuries, Bryant is suddenly mortal, with 36 points total in the Lakers' Games 3 and 4 losses in Oklahoma City. He was 15-for-39 from the field and an astonishing 0-for-2 from the line.

Unless he summons the old Kobe Bryant, it's not a matter of if the Lakers lose in the West draw but when.


Spurs look refreshed

Ira Winderman

Sun Sentinel

Not if the Spurs continue this remarkable resurrection that has Mark Cuban wondering how his Mavericks wound up with San Antonio as a No. 7 seed.

Already positioning Tony Parker for the Sixth Man Award for the postseason, Gregg Popovich has his team revitalized, while the Lakers struggle simply to find a way to make it through another trip to Oklahoma City.

And we haven't even seen the best of Tim Duncan yet, with Sunday's four-point performance against the Mavs a low point.

After two years of advancing to the Finals, there are signs Kobe & Co. are running on empty. The Spurs, by contrast, went through their creaky-old-men stage during the regular season and now appear poised for more.


L.A.'s sheen is gone

Brian Schmitz

Orlando Sentinel

This is serious enough now that the Lakers need their fans to look up long enough from their BlackBerries to cheer.

The Lakers are in trouble.

They are not getting the celebrity treatment. They look like a guy who has been caught trying to sneak out of a house wearing a fake mustache, not to pile on Charlie Sheen.

L.A.'s embarrassment will be as bottomless as a truck-stop cup of coffee should the reigning champs get upset by the Thunder.

Kobe Bryant looks as if his battered body needs to be up on blocks, but I believe the Lakers will start caring enough to make it back to the Finals. The Western Conference hasn't stepped up that much.

But their title run is over. They have Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, but Kobe is dinged. They can't make it with two and a half men.


Too deep to unseat

K.C. Johnson

Chicago Tribune

The Thunder isn't the only 50-win team that should concern the Lakers. The Spurs are showing the 55-win Mavericks why they own four NBA championships — and why they remain the Lakers' biggest hurdle to repeat.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich coaches less for the regular season than for this time of year. George Hill and Tony Parker can team to exploit the Lakers' biggest weakness, point guard Derek Fisher. Kobe Bryant is banged up. And the Spurs are finally healthy. They're even winning with Tim Duncan scoring just four points.

The Spurs defend, aren't fazed by road or mind games and, in Antonio McDyess, own an underrated veteran who can help against some of the Lakers' length.

So the Spurs, right? Nah. Even that attempt to use logic to unseat the faltering Lakers doesn't account for their depth, their length and their best quality of all — Bryant's superhuman competitiveness and refuse-to-lose intensity. But it'll be a great Western Conference finals.


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