Can Anything Save LA Lakers from a 1st-Round Sweep in 2013 NBA Playoffs?

Zach BuckleyNational NBA Featured ColumnistApril 27, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 26:  Dwight Howard (L) #12 and Devin Ebanks #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers look on from the bench in the second half against the San Antonio Spurs during Game Three of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on April 26, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. The Spurs defeated the Lakers 120-89.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Kobe Bryant isn't going to be sending out any encouraging tweets to these Los Angeles Lakers anytime soon.

And that has nothing to do with his self-imposed ban on live-game tweeting, either. Frankly, he might not know these guys well enough.

L.A.'s starting backcourt for Friday's 120-89 Game 3 loss to the San Antonio Spurs featured the 2012-13 D-League MVP, Andrew Goudelock, and another player who had served a D-League assignment this month, Darius Morris.

Think that was bad? Well, it only gets worse.

The injury replacements combined to score nearly half of L.A.'s points. Morris had 24, and Goudelock added 20, accounting for even more production with their seven total assists.

Clearly someone had to pick up the offensive slack left behind by Bryant (Achilles), Steve Nash (hamstring), Jodie Meeks (ankle) and Steve Blake (hamstring). But it has to be concerning to Lakers nation that Metta World Peace (zero points, 0-of-6), Antawn Jamison (five points, 2-of-5) and Earl Clark (four points, 2-of-9) couldn't contribute much of anything.

Pau, Dwight, Morris, & Goudelock: 31-58 from the floor for 80 points. The rest of the team: 4-23 from the floor for 9 points. Yeah.

— Darius Soriano (@forumbluegold) April 27, 2013

The inside-out attack necessitated by this rash of injuries never got flowing on either end of the equation. Dwight Howard scored a team-high 25 points, but he was limited to just 31 minutes because of foul trouble. Pau Gasol found his way to another triple-double (11 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists), but the Lakers needed him to be a more selfish scorer.

Any thoughts of upsetting the Spurs have long been abandoned.

As the stakes have risen, the Lakers have crumbled, particularly on the defensive end. San Antonio has improved its field-goal percentage by more than 10 points in each game this series, peaking (for now) with Friday's 61.2 mark.

Of course, players like Tim Duncan (26 points, 12-of-16 in Game 3) and Tony Parker (20 points, 9-of-14) tend to have that effect on defenses.

Pau on guarding Duncan: "It's difficult especially when he has that face up jumper going. When he got going, it was tough matching up."

— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) April 27, 2013

The Spurs are an underrated powerhouse, but they should not be able to negate L.A.'s daunting size so easily.

Seldom-used reserve DeJuan Blair torched the Lakers for 13 points on 6-of-6 shooting in under 15 minutes in Game 3. Matt Bonner stopped his run of consecutive double-digit scoring outings on Friday only because he stopped shooting (six points, 2-of-3 from downtown).

The Lakers figured to be hurting on the offensive end without Bryant (27.3 points per game), but they could not have foreseen a worsening defense with youth and athleticism being infused in the backcourt.

That tells me that these players have checked out long ago, perhaps as they were forced to watch Bryant limp off the floor less than a week before the postseason started and take any championship pipe dreams with him.

Not only do the Lakers have zero chance to avoid the sweep, but this superteam's run is finished.

There's no conceivable way that you'll see this same core take the court together next season.

Optimistic time frames can't put Bryant back on the floor until at least the All-Star break. Howard's free-agent decision is anything but a foregone conclusion. Gasol has been on the trade market for years. It hurts to watch Nash put his 39-year-old body through the motions. Mike D'Antoni's one-liners are getting sadder by the day.

Something has to give before this franchise can regain any a semblance of relevance in the Western Conference.

Whatever that thing is, it won't be found between now and Game 4 on Sunday (7 p.m. ET on TNT).