Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard talk about life without Kobe Bryant and the game against the Houston Rockets at Los Angeles Lakers practice on Apr 16, 2013.
Wednesday, the 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers season finale arrives at nightfall.
After 81 games, the 82nd game means everything. There is no guarantee of making the playoffs, but the Lakers didn’t sound like they were on the verge of a summer vacation at Tuesday’s practice. Instead, they displayed confidence, excitement, and positivity on winning on Wednesday and making the playoffs.
As usual, Pau Gasol was aware of every detail regarding playoff scenarios. He is a student of the modern day game even if his post moves impulsively conjure a “throwback” mental image of great big men of yesteryear.
However, Pau is in HD, and he looks like he belongs there.
Honestly, the Lakers belong in the playoffs. Even without Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash—the latter may as well not even be mentioned with regards to helping the cause this season—the Lakers would generate more excitement in the NBA’s postseason than the Utah Jazz (this is based entirely on my residence in Los Angeles, but I stand by it).
Last game, the Spanish giant had a rough shooting night, but his presence on the boards was instrumental in achieving a necessary Lakers victory over the Spurs. Gasol had 16 rebounds against the two rather lengthy opponents in Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter. Incidentally, the Lakers win on Wednesday draws a seven game series against those same San Antonio Spurs.
Between the pair of Gasol and Dwight Howard, the Lakers tallied 33 rebounds and 11 offensive rebounds against the Spurs on Sunday. The entire Spurs team managed 10 offensive boards in Sunday’s loss. Howard is the second head of the Lakers budding two-headed monster, and Howard’s muscle is perfectly balanced by Gasol’s finesse. Most importantly, both these players appear to be returning to health and form at the optimal moment.
The hope remains that the Gasol and Howard combination can conduct the speed of games, control the boards, and contain the opposition inside the paint.
With the twin towers, flaws of transition defense remain, but the replacements for Nash and Bryant aid in that department because they are all younger and faster than the injured duo of surefire first ballot hall of famers.
Sure, Jodie Meeks is not going to fill up a box score like Kobe Bryant, but 6’4” of 25-year-old beats 6’6” of 34-year-old in a pure foot race. Steve Blake may not be a spring chicken considering he turned 33 years old in February, but he looks like the road runner next to 39-year-old Steve Nash.
That last statement was not meant to slight one of the greatest point guards in the history of the NBA; instead, it was intended to focus on the reality of why the Lakers may actually provide hope with what will be on the floor on Wednesday night…and probably game one of the Western Conference Playoffs (Officially attempting to slow my roll).
If the Lakers win on Wednesday, Greg Popovic and the San Antonio Spurs would be wise to proceed with caution. Even without Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash, the Howard and Gasol Lakers are not dead on arrival if they enter the playoffs on a five-game winning streak.