Friday night at Staples Center, the Los Angeles Lakers will host their penultimate game of the season. The Golden State Warriors are in town, and one cannot help but think back to 12 months earlier. On April 12, 2013, Kobe Bryant ruptured his Achilles tendon in the fourth quarter against the same Warriors team on the same basketball court.
At that point, the Lakers were embroiled in a late playoffs chase. On Friday, the Lakers are engaged in a chase for the bottom of the Western Conference. Since that fateful night when Bryant bravely attempted and converted two late-game free throws on a fully ruptured Achilles, the face of the Lakers for the better part of two decades has only taken part in six games.
Instead of playoffs or championships, the story for Friday night is the return of Steve Blake to Los Angeles. Blake was sent away on the night before the trade deadline, and he has become a staple for the Warriors off the bench.
Since joining Golden State, Blake has played in 24 games. Exclusively used as a reserve, Blake is averaging 3.8 points and 3.3 assist in 20.8 minutes per game with Golden State. However, Blake’s greatest asset was always toughness and defense, two characteristics the Lakers have missed with the departure of the 34-year-old point guard.
For the Lakers, Friday night is the same tired story: injuries.
For Friday’s game, the Lakers will be without the services of Bryant (fractured knee), Pau Gasol (vertigo), Chris Kaman (strained leg), Xavier Henry (wrist and knee), Steve Nash (nerve root irritation) and Kent Bazemore (torn tendon, foot).
The undermanned and underdog Lakers will send out the same starters as last game: Kendall Marshall, Jodie Meeks, Wesley Johnson, Ryan Kelly and Jordan Hill. With only nine players available, the Lakers’ bench will feature Jordan Farmar, Nick Young, MarShon Brooks and Robert Sacre.
Worth mentioning, Farmar is only one game back in his return from a groin injury, and Young is playing through his own knee issues. Even the nine players available on Friday night are not exactly examples of good health.
Playing the second to last home game of the 2013-14 season, this is the final Friday night for the Lakers at Staples Center.