Saturday, March 24, 2012
Can the Lakers catch San Antonio?
By Dave McMenamin
EL SEGUNDO -- With just 18 games remaining in the regular season, the 30-18 Lakers have built a three-game lead over the Los Angeles Clippers for the No. 3 seeding in the West and sit only 2 1/2 games behind San Antonio for the No. 2 spot.
With the playoffs beginning in just about a month, talk of postseason seeding is picking up and the Lakers find themselves in the unique situation of a schedule that could either help them catch the Spurs quickly or, in a sense, double the separation between the two teams. From April 11-20, three of the six games the Lakers will play are against San Antonio, with two of the three coming on the road.
L.A. has yet to play the Spurs this season, but Lakers coach Mike Brown says he believes it's possible to track down his mentor, Gregg Popovich, and the boys in black and silver.
"It could happen," Brown said after the Lakers' film session and light practice Saturday.
As long as the Lakers keep the Clippers and Phoenix Suns at bay and win the Pacific Division, the worst they'll be seeded is No. 3. Brown isn't putting any pressure on the San Antonio pursuit.
"I never really put any goals like that on our team in terms of how many games we need to win or where we need to finish," Brown said. "Obviously it would be great to finish first if that happens, but I don’t think that was of the utmost importance for us because I felt the season was going to be wacky and I just wanted to be at our best at the end, wherever that was [in terms of seeding]. If we were at our best at the end, I really don’t care if we play at home or on somebody’s court, we’ll go get it done."
Still, the three games in 10 days against the Spurs should provide a mini playoff feel for both the Lakers players and coaching staff as the two teams make adjustments to each other from game to game.
"[It will be] a test, meaning that they’re a good basketball team and it will be fun to compete against them and they give you a feel based on how they defend and based on how they play offense of some things that you need to adjust to," Brown said. "But, in terms of us winning three games or them winning all three games, to me, that doesn’t mean much."
As far as that cushion in the standings the Lakers have been able to build by winning seven of their last nine games, it doesn't do much for Brown.
"There’s still a ways to go," Brown said. "I think there’s starting to be some separation, but I think in the loss column it’s like two or three games. I think it’s still within shouting distance for everybody. I think when you start talking 6-7 games, maybe that’s a little bit different, but I still consider us all close."