Well they did it. The Lakers made the playoffs. And in impressive fashion. A few weeks ago, most analysts thought it wouldn’t be possible for them. But the Lakers went on a tear to close the season, winning 8 of their last 9 games, including their final 2 games without star Kobe Bryant who went down with a ruptured achilles tendon.
What is maybe even more impressive is the Lakers not only made the playoffs, but caught the Rockets to secure the 7th spot in the Western Conference. The importance of this cannot be stated enough, as they have successfully dodged playing the defending Western Conference champion OKC Thunder in the first round.
After their overtime win last night against the Houston Rockets here is what Mike D’Antoni had to say about the late season push:
“From where we were 20-30 games ago, the No. 7 seed is pretty good. … We should have been in that spot in the first place, it’s our fault.”
What is fascinating is just how well the team pulled together after losing Kobe Bryant and without point guard Steve Nash in the lineup. Players like Pau Gasol who had been the butt of much ridicule this year during the Lakers losing streaks, steadied the ship and showed just how valuable he can be:
Lakers forward Pau Gasol spent most of this season either injured or maligned for his lack of athleticism by D’Antoni. But he’s one of the most popular guys in the locker room after posting his second triple-double in the last three games, finishing with 17 points, 20 rebounds and 11 assists in 43 minutes. He’s the first member of the Lakers since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1978 to finish with at least 15 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists in a game.
So now that the Lakers have made it to the playoffs, now what? Do they sit back and enjoy the pressure valve release, or do they focus on trying to go as deep as they can to exceed expectations?
Given the Lakers are playing the San Antonio Spurs in the first round, a rivalry that is no stranger to either team, it gives Steve Nash a chance at revenge for his championship dreams being dashed multiple times by the Spurs when he was a member of the Phoenix Suns. Amidst much speculation, the word on the street today is that Nash is most definitely going to be back in a uniform and ready to play for Game 1 of the first round match-up.
A couple months ago if I was aware of this match-up, I’d most definitely pick the Spurs. But the way the season has finished, and with news that Nash is back, I’m not so sure anymore. The Lakers could surprise a lot of people.
(Quotes via NBA.com)