NBA Playoffs 2012: 10 Reasons L.A. Lakers Will Come Up Short This Postseason
The Lakers went 41-25 in the strike shortened season, good enough for the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference. Kobe had an MVP caliber performance, finishing second in the league in scoring to Kevin Durant.
Despite the success, the Lakers were far from perfect during the season, struggling against the top teams and on the road.
Here are ten reasons the Lakers won't be raising the championship trophy in the City of Angels.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Even if the Lakers move past the Denver Nuggets and into the Conference Semi-Finals, their road will not get any easier.
The purple and gold will face off against the most talented team in the West—the Oklahoma City Thunder.
During three regular-season match-ups against the Thunder, the Lakers struggled, losing the first two games. They were on track to lose the third, until a furious second-half come back captivated the Laker faithful.
The Lakers vs. the Thunder is a showdown of old vs. new, Kobe vs. Durant.
It's hard to say if the Lakers can beat the them in a seven-game series, but at least they have playoff experience.
If they they can steal a game in OKC they have a chance, but if they can't, it's all but over.
San Antonio Spurs
They do it almost every year, but for some reason the league is still surprised.
One team that knows how well the Spurs play are the Los Angles Lakers. Over a two-week stretch the Lakers lost two of three to the Spurs, including an embarrassing 112-91 loss at home.
The Spurs have opted to allow their talented bench to play extended minutes during the season, with only one player, Tony Parker, averaging more than 30 minutes a game.
Although it's uncertain how rested the aging Spurs veterans are for the playoffs, the Spurs players have bought into Coach of the Year Gregg Popovich.
Popovich benched all his starters on multiple occasions, especially late in games.
Although the Lakers won a game in San Antonio, the Spurs should beat the Lakers if the teams play in the conference finals.
The Eastern Conference
Even if the Lakers make it all the way to the finals, they still have to take down an Eastern Conference opponent.
This is not the east from three-to-five years ago, where a few teams sitting well below .500 would make the playoffs.
If the Heat and Lakers make it to the NBA Finals, don't be surprised if LeBron James gets his first ring while Kobe is left waiting for his sixth.
An Aging Kobe Bryant
At 33-years-old, Kobe Bryant is playing some of the best basketball of his career. During the two Lakers playoff games, the 13-year veteran has scored 31 and 38 points.
This regular season, Kobe played in 58 of the 66 games, and at almost 28 points per game, it was his highest mark since 07/08.
Despite the success, Kobe shot only 43 percent from the field, which was is third-lowest mark in his 13-year career.
He did battle the injury bug and missed time towards the end of the year. Every year it seems like he is playing through another injury.
So the question looming is, can Kobe continue to carry his team deep into the playoffs?
Without a doubt that answer is yes, but how efficiently will he create his shot? If Kobe can get to the line and continue to play well, the Lakers will be a tough match-up.
However, if Kobe continues to jack up shots and tries to put the team on his back, it may be a shorter-than-expected postseason run.
Consistency from Andrew Bynum
It's safe to say Andrew Bynum is coming into his own; considering it's his 7th season in the NBA, it's about time.
After his unsportsmanlike act against J.J. Barea in last years' playoffs, Bynum has become a better player. After serving the five-game suspension, he responded and had his best season to date.
With almost 19 points and 12 rebounds per game, he may be one of the best true centers in the NBA.
Where Bynum struggles is consistency on the court. He is the kind of player that will have 25 points and 18 boards like he did against the New Orleans Hornets, or struggle and score only 9 points like he did against the Warriors back in January,
If Bynum is playing well, he is an unstoppable force inside, and right now he is the x-factor for a Laker playoff run.
As long as Bynum continues to dominate the paint the Lakers should continue to win in the playoffs. But consistency has proven to be an issue for the big man, and right now the Lakers' title chances may rest on whether he comes to play.
No (Metta) World Peace
This is a killer blow, especially if the Lakers roll through the series with the Nuggets.
Right now he has a chance to possibly miss the first two games of the Thunder series if LA sweeps the Nuggets.
World Peace was playing really good basketball recently, especially when Kobe was out. Over the last 10 games he averaged 15.1 ppg, well above his 7.7 regular season mark.
Despite being a scoring threat, he is a still a good defender who guards the best players in the NBA night after night, and takes the pressure off Kobe.
The sooner they get World Peace back, the better chance they have of winning this postseason.
Although the Lakers have a 2-0 lead on the Nuggets, they have struggled rebounding the ball. In game two, when the Lakers almost lost a 18-point second-half lead, the Nuggets out-rebounded the Lakers and outscored them in the paint.
Despite the winning performance, they gave up 19 offensive rebounds, leading to 26 second -chance points.
This is where Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol must begin to dominate if the Lakers are going to continue in the playoffs.
If the Lakers are to keep winning, they have to clean up the boards and reduce the amount of second-chance opportunities.
Consistency of the Bench
For any team to make a deep playoff run, it needs to get production from the bench, and the Lakers will be no different.
During the year the bench played a limited role in the Lakers' success.
No player coming off the bench saw more than 23 minutes per game and Matt Barnes was the top scoring player with almost eight points-per-game.
Although the Lakers style concentrates on their big-three getting most of the playing time, more bench production is needed.
In a long seven games series, role players can win you games, while your starters grab some much needed rest.
If the Lakers bench steps up in the playoffs they may be a tough out; otherwise, look for them to get bounced in the second round.
Can't Win on the Road
The biggest test the Lakers face this postseason is how they will respond on the road. If it's anything like the regular season, then get ready for a quick playoff exit.
Although the Lakers were tied for the third-best home record, their road mark is the exact opposite. They are a very impressive 26-7 at Staples, but a paltry 15-18 on the road.
One major reason for the struggle is that the Lakers give up 99 points on the road, while they held teams to 92.7 points at home. They also only shot 45 percent on the road, compared to 47 percent at home.
If the Lakers are to make a deep run in the playoff, they have to turn it around on the road. As long as they continue to struggle away from Staples, they have no shot at a title.
One aspect of their game the Lakers must improve is their three-point shooting.
During their first two games against the Denver Nuggets they shot only 25 percent from behind the arc.
During the regular season, they weren't that much better, shooting 33 percent from three.
With the Lakers interior presence in Gasol and Bynum, the ability to shoot the three can elevate the Lakers game.
If they become more consistent, they could pose problems for Oklahoma City.