L.A. Lakers' Hard Times in Hollywood, Team Struggles Against Depleted Spurs

Brad Vipperman@TeamVip33Correspondent IApril 13, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 12:  Andrew Bynum #17 of the Los Angeles Lakers buries his head in his arms after going down with an injury against the San Antonio Spurs at Staples Center on April 12, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2011 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

After yet another lackluster performance by the Los Angeles Lakers, the defending champs are facing their biggest roadblock yet on their quest for a third straight NBA title: themselves.

Despite escaping the Staples Center with a victory over the San Antonio Spurs' backups, the Lakers provided no glimpses that the slump they’ve been on is over. Worse yet, center Andrew Bynum left the game in the second quarter with another knee injury— something that’s become an all too familiar sight for Laker fans.

Both, Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson, appeared visibly frustrated during the game at the lack of effort and execution of some of the Laker role players.

LA’s roster is already looking thin, especially in the backcourt, where backup point guard Steve Blake will miss an indefinite amount of time with the chicken pox. You know, that thing you get when you’re five years old.

Injuries and illness aside, if Kobe, Ron Artest, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol, Derek Fisher and Shannon Brown can’t expeditiously put away a nearly unrecognizable San Antonio lineup, there is trouble brewing in the postseason.

As it currently stands, the Lakers have the two-seed by virtue of a tie-breaker over the Dallas Mavericks. A win over the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night would guarantee the Lakers a first-round matchup with the New Orleans Hornets in the 2011 NBA Playoffs.

This is critical for a Laker squad that desperately needs a playoff series against a weaker team to straighten themselves out. Falling behind Dallas would not only cost them home-court advantage in a prospective second-round matchup with the Mavericks, but also force them to play an athletic and talented Trail Blazer team.

Projecting a playoff run for the Lakers is virtually a fruitless endeavor at this point unless the team starts to play better.

Obviously, we should be hesitant to overreact, even to a spell of basketball as bad as the Lakers have played, given the fact that they are the two-time defending champs and have Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson.

Kobe has that “other gear” that is reserved only for great players that he knows how to unleash in the playoffs and Phil is the master at getting his team to perform when it is absolutely essential.

As scary as Bynum’s knee injury looked tonight, it does not appear that he will be knocked out of the playoffs. With a functioning Bynum, along with the same cast and characters that one the title last year, the Lakers will continue to have a shot to three-peat.

They are going to have to play much better than they did Tuesday night though, and they better do it fast.

The Penalty Flag‘s Brad Vipperman can be followed on Twitter @TeamVip33.

This article is also featured on The Penalty Flag.


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