Does It Really Matter If These Lakers Make the Playoffs?
The Easter Holiday celebrates the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and after their latest loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday night, the Los Angeles Lakers could use some divine intervention to breathe life into their fading season.
The Lakers still have a strong shot at qualifying for the postseason after their fourth loss in five games, but at this point does it really even matter?
The Lakers' best defender, Metta World Peace, may be gone for good, and it was recently reported by ESPN's Dave McMenamin that Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash are dealing with foot and hip issues, respectively.
However, lamenting the Lakers' various injury concerns would be missing the point, because even if this roster was completely healthy, it's doubtful the Lakers could make it out of the first round if they managed to make it to the playoffs at all.
There are numerous points to support my theory, but the strongest evidence against the Lakers making any type of serious playoff run is found in their inferior team defense.
No lead is ever safe in the NBA, and that sentiment is multiplied when it comes to the Lakers who have made a habit out of building huge margins then losing them in a flood of horrible defensive play.
The latest example came in a 120-117 win over Minnesota, a game in which the Lakers held a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter with six minutes left to play.
The Timberwolves were able to whittle that lead to three points in a span of five minutes.
On March 22, the Lakers surrendered a 16-point lead to the lowly Washington Wizards and were beaten 103-100 under a storm of Trevor Ariza three-pointers.
The Lakers' defensive performance against the Bucks may have been the worst of them all when you consider that every member of Milwaukee's starting five scored at least 15 points, and they all did it by shooting at least 50 percent from the field.
Defensive-minded Bucks center Larry Sanders even managed to record a career-high 21 points in the process.
If the Lakers can't summon up a consistent defensive performance against a marginal team from the East, how can you expect them to contain offensive juggernauts like Oklahoma City and San Antonio?
A healthy Steve Nash can't prevent Tony Parker and Russell Westbrook from destroying the Lakers at the point of attack, and Kobe's iron-man heroics can't mask the obvious decline in his individual defense.
The re-birth of Dwight Howard as an elite defensive force has been the lone bright spot in the Lakers' recent stretch, but even that effort is wasted when no one on the roster can back him up.
Looking toward the bench for guidance is even more depressing, since Mike D'Antoni seems to have no clue about the principles of team defense, or even the concept.
In a season filled with terrible moments, the decision to hire D'Antoni to lead the Lakers ranks among the worst, and anyone who failed to see the lack of substance in his philosophy and approach during his stint in New York is getting a bird's-eye view now.
Can the Lakers Make it out of the First Round of the Playoffs?
In a twist of irony, D'Antoni is exactly the opposite version of the coach Los Angeles could most use right now.
Creating offense is not a problem for the Lakers, but they need a coach who can capitalize on their size advantage on defense and minimize the damage the Lakers incur based on their inferior perimeter defenders.
D'Antoni does not fit that description.
Right now, the Lakers are holding on to their playoff lives with a slim half-game lead over the Utah Jazz for the eighth and final seed in the Western Conference, but maybe Los Angeles should just let go of the rope and avoid the embarrassment of a first-round sweep.
Either way the Lakers still make history, because it's looking extremely difficult for them to avoid the label as one of the greatest busts in team sports.
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