On Sunday, the Staples Center will likely get one final look at the 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers, and the team on the floor and available to play on the bench offers a harsh reminder of a disappointing season that most Lakers fans would rather forget.
Metta World Peace was the most recent Lakers starter to be nixed from an injury ravaged lineup. Mike D’Antoni confirmed that Jodie Meek, Steve Nash, and World Peace would not be available for Game 4. Steve Blake and Kobe Bryant were already cemented on that list of Lakers out indefinitely.
The Lakers coach confirmed that Earl Clark would start and that Andrew Goudelock and Darius Morris would retain their starting positions from Game 3. Incredibly, the Lakers are scheduled to start three different lineups in four games against the Spurs this series. Even more incredibly, all three of those lineups were never once featured in the regular season. These changes are not strategy; they are desperation.
In Game 1, the Lakers started Nash, Blake, World Peace, Pau Gasol, and Dwight Howard. That lineup had never once started together in the regular season. Game 2, that same lineup repeated, but both Blake and Nash were unable to finish the game, and both were unavailable when the series shifted to Los Angeles.
In Game 3, Andrew Goudelock, who had only joined the team for the final three games of the season, and Darius Morris, a rarely used substitute, were starting in the back court. However, the front three of World Peace, Gasol, and Howard were holding strong. World Peace’s knee was drained of fluid on game day, and he was pulled at halftime.
With World Peace ruled out of Game 4, the Lakers are starting Clark at small forward with Morris and Goudelock in the back court. Conceivably, this may be the only time these three ever start together, and they have the gargantuan task of attempting to avoid history.
If the Lakers lose on Sunday, this will be the first time the Lakers have been swept in the first round since the NBA expanded to a 16 team playoffs, and unfortunately, that is not a big “if.”