The Spurs are going for the sweep. If all holds, it will be the second time in the past three years the Lakers have had their season end through a series that went the minimum four games.
To say the least, the Los Angeles Lakers struggling to get into the postseason, and then potentially getting swept, was not what was envisioned heading into the 2012-13 season. Actually, it was probably the last thing that was expected considering all that occurred in the offseason.
The Lakers made two of the most significant signings of the offseason by reeling in a two-time MVP in Steve Nash and a three-time Defensive Player of the Year in Dwight Howard. All they ended up losing was the injury-prone Andrew Bynum, who sat out the entire 2012-13 campaign.
But what did that matter?
The Lakers just replaced arguably the league's second-best center with the best. Even if Howard was coming off offseason back surgery, Los Angeles not only had a piece that could potentially bring about memories of the former Kobe Bryant-Shaquille O'Neal pairing, but also a piece that was worth building around for the future.
The Lakers weren't prepared to offer a max contract and instill the future of their franchise in Bynum, who had played in 70 or more games on only one occasion in seven years with Los Angeles.
Plus, Dwight was looking for a way out of Orlando and the Lakers had a great looking roster and money to boot.
Also signing with the Lakers was longtime Phoenix Suns point guard Steve Nash, who hopped on the Los Angeles bandwagon in hopes of winning a title before his career came to an end.
The Lakers ended up signing a bunch of names. And we were fooled into believing that a roster of names was enough to convert the Lakers from second-round fodder into a team that had the potential of doing everything the Miami Heat Big Three could do and then some.
The Lakers, I think, right now, I mean on paper, they probably have the best team in the West and probably the league right now. On paper. I’m saying on paper. But it’s a lot, a lot, it’s a long season. And the best team always isn’t the one who starts out the season as the best team. We know we’re the champs, but we have to start off from scratch. We have a lot of chemistry building to do. And we have to come out there and we have to start over. We know favorites and all that stuff really doesn’t matter.
Naturally, most analysts assumed Bosh and the Heat were scared of the Lakers, since that usually makes a good story. What we failed to realize, however, was there wasn't a player who knew more about the situation the Lakers were set to deal with than Chris Bosh.
Because who would know more about a team compiling a roster full of big names than an actual player who was a part of it?
We all remember summer 2010. LeBron James and Chris Bosh, as well as the signing of deadly three-point threat Mike Miller, becoming teammates with Dwyane Wade sent the NBA world into a frenzy. Predictions were called for the team breaking the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls record for wins in a season and the 1971-72 Lakers streak for consecutive wins in the first season.
And why not? The Heat were teaming up three bona fide All-Stars, a two-time MVP, a Finals MVP and two scoring champions in three players. Not to mention that LeBron had just won 66 games with a Cleveland Cavaliers team that did not have Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
Sure, the roster would be extremely top-heavy, but the names! Such appealing names!
So, naturally, we were all a tad shocked when the Heat started 9-8 that season and couldn't hold their own against the elite teams of the league; because proper analysis was substituted with salivating at a depth chart.
The Heat were a team full of players that didn't fit, and that included LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, two players with similar styles who thrived with the ball in their hands and driving to the paint. It turns out that a thriving offense can't be built around two guys taking turns facilitating.
The Miami Heat got where they are now because each member of the team understood and bought in to the idea of adjustments and sacrifice being the solutions to making the experiment work.
Nobody cared about minutes. Nobody cared about stats. Nobody cared about egos. If you were on the Miami Heat, you were solely about winning, and therefore you most likely ended up taking a pay-cut to join the team.
According to John Hollinger's efficiency ratings, the Heat went from scoring 109.3 points per 100 possessions and an assist ratio of 14.6 in 2011 to an offensive efficiency of 110.3 points per 100 possessions and an assist ratio of 18.5.
It wasn't easy, and it still isn't. Even after finishing the regular season with a franchise-record 66 wins and just sweeping the Milwaukee Bucks, every win coming by at least 11 points, the Heat still experience problems that come as a result of having a roster full of names.
It almost feels as if the Lakers compiled the roster they currently have without thinking it through.
For example, having Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash, two players who need the ball in their hands to thrive, starting in the same backcourt. Much like the Heat in their first year of the Big Three era, Bryant and Nash go through stretches where they're taking turns, rather than working together.
Even with post players in Howard and Pau Gasol manning the fort underneath the rim, lineups with those two, as well as Nash and Bryant, failed to yield results as the Lakers were caught taking shots from outside the paint on too many occasions.
According to 82games.com, the Laker lineup that saw the most minutes (Nash, Bryant, Metta World Peace, Earl Clark, Howard) was only getting 34 percent of its shots near the rim.
The Lakers ended up ranking third in the league in three-point attempts, but only finished 19th in three-point percentage. The Toronto Raptors and Portland Trail Blazers were the only teams to take at least 20 three-pointers per game and finish shooting a lower percentage than the Lakers from beyond the arc.
Kobe Bryant ended up attempting 5.2 three-pointers per game, the most he's averaged since 2008. Wasn't having talented role players supposed to create more efficient shots, and not the other way around?
Update: The Lakers are now down 52-34 at the half. For those that thought Kobe Bryant took the ball away from Dwight, the Laker center has taken two shots and Darius Morris has nine.
Maybe it's more of a system problem, as opposed to an individual one.
Oh, they did put an effort into working the ball inside this season, by the way. According to SynergySports, the Lakers had 14 percent of their offense derive from post-ups, but ranked 12th in the league in points per possession on those plays and shot a collective percentage of a little less than 47 percent.
Perhaps the most discouraging fact is the Lakers only using 7 percent of their offense centered around the pick-and-roll man, according to SynergySports. They ranked sixth in the league running that play and shot 57 percent.
Although the Lakers ranked 13th in points per possession given up, a majority of their problems this season have been a result of their defense. They ranked 18th in the league, according to Hollinger's ratings, with a defensive efficiency of 103.5 points given up per 100 possessions.
The Lakers did a solid job at defending post-ups and spot-ups, but struggled defending just about every other play. It turns out, surprisingly, that Nash and Bryant are not elite one-on-one defenders, which explains why the Lakers ended up ranking 23rd in isolation PPP given up.
They also ranked 26th when defending the pick-and-roll man and 18th defending transition opportunities. Speed and athleticism were not primary attributes of this Lakers team.
In fact, perhaps the Lakers invested too much in experience, without taking age also into account. Once the season started, the team began to fall to pieces with each starter having an injury problem at one time or another.
A starting lineup composed of a 39-year-old point guard, 34-year-old shooting guard, 33-year-old small forward, 32-year-old power forward and a center that was fresh off of back surgery didn't exactly leave the Lakers with much hope for the future.
The Lakers are obviously in win-now mode, and it would be extremely unfair to claim age having to do with the torn achilles of Bryant or the foot of Gasol. However, the Lakers could have known better when signing Nash and Howard.
Update: Dwight Howard just got ejected for arguing a call.
The Phoenix Suns medical staff is comprised of wizards. There's no other explanation. This is the fewest amount of games Nash has played in a season since 1999 and the most amount of games he missed in a season with the Suns came in 2009 when he missed eight contests.
Nash missed 32 games this season.
Still not buying it? Grant Hill, injury-plagued his entire NBA career, missed three games in a three-year span with the Suns. He has played in 29 games with the Los Angeles Clippers this season and is averaging 3.2 points on 39 percent shooting.
As for Dwight, he was fresh off of back surgery and that's never easy to return from for any athlete.
The main problem with the Lakers, however, was the lack of help coming from the bench. They were obviously not the same team without former Sixth Man of the Year Lamar Odom, yet they chose to leave the bench as an afterthought.
Had we paid attention, we would have known that a championship contender cannot have a bench that featured Steve Blake, Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks as its biggest names.
So many teams have attempted what the Boston Celtics did in 2007 by bringing in a few All-Stars to play with a star already on the team. Outside of the Heat and Lakers, the New York Knicks, Los Angeles Clippers and Brooklyn Nets have all attempted to create a championship-caliber team centered around a couple of stars who were signed through free agency or brought through a trade.
Names don't matter. Names aren't going to win a championship. It takes a team and the Lakers don't have the appearance of one, especially when seemingly half the team is out dealing with injuries.
The Lakers have the pieces to become one of the greatest teams to ever step on a court. However, they'll never experience that feeling unless they buy into what made Chris Bosh and the Heat the team to beat.
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