The Lakers have managed to persevere though a season marred by injuries, but the latest – to Kobe Bryant – may simply be too much to overcome.
After willing his team to overcome the odds all season long, it was Bryant who went down with a injury that will likely keep him out of action for the remainder of the season, even if the Lakers make the playoffs. And after looking at their current situation, that is a big if.
Bryant tore the Achilles tendon in his left leg shortly after draining two huge three-pointers to help the Lakers comeback to defeat the Golden State Warriors on Friday night. The win helped the Lakers move one step closer to the postseason, but it devastated Bryant to be unable to finish what he started in 2012-2013.
“Just terrible,” Bryant said, according to ESPN.com. “It’s a terrible feeling, man.”
The Lakers still hold a one-game lead over the Utah Jazz for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West, but without their floor general, the Lakers will have to soldier on without him and win at least one of their next two games. However, with the way the Jazz are playing at the moment, the Lakers may have to win both.
The first test will come tonight against the San Antonio Spurs. Fortunately for the Lakers, the Spurs may limit their stars’ minutes, as they rest up for the playoffs. Still, the Spurs pose a huge threat to L.A.’s playoff aspirations with the second best record in the Western Conference.
If the Lakers do manage to slip by the Spurs, they’ll likely have to earn a win in the last game of the season against the Houston Rockets on Wednesday, assuming that the Jazz defeat the Minnesota Timberwolves for the second time in the past week. The playoff-bound Rockets may also consider rest as they gear up for their first round series, but Houston’s offense – which is one of the best in the league – will undoubtedly give the defensive-challenged Lakers some problems.
With Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard, the Lakers are still a good team, but there’s no question that they aren’t the same team without Kobe Bryant. Last week, it was looking like the Lakers were destined for the postseason, but I just don’t see them winning both of these final two games without their best player. As long as the Jazz finish the season strong, look for the Lakers to be sent home early, which is something they certainly aren’t used to.