Injuries just too much for Lakers
A Game 2 loss to the Spurs magnified what has been a season theme for L.A.
SAN ANTONIO -- The scoreboard was technically 0-0 when Game 2 between the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs tipped off Wednesday, but a quick glance at the injury report on the front page of the game notes had the Spurs going into the night with an 8-1 lead.
Eight players on the Lakers came in with a pre-existing injury they were dealing with, most notably Kobe Bryant out for the season because of an Achilles tear, while just one player for San Antonio -- Boris Diaw, out while recovering from back surgery -- had any sort of trauma listed next to his name.
Of course, it only got worse from there.
Steve Nash tweaked his right hamstring in the first half and will receive his third epidural in just more than a week Thursday to try to settle the pain caused by nerve damage stemming from a right hip injury he sustained last month. Steve Blake pulled out of the game midway through the fourth quarter and needed help making his way to the locker room afterward. He'll receive an ultrasound Thursday. Jodie Meeks' sprained left ankle kept him out of the 102-91 loss and he'll undergo an MRI exam on it Thursday.
"This has been far and away the worst season for injuries I have ever been a part of personally and professionally," Nash said.
And that's with two of their players having two of the most miraculous recoveries you'll ever come across in sports -- Metta World Peace playing 12 days after knee surgery and Jordan Hill returning for Game 2 just three months after undergoing left hip surgery that was supposed to keep him out for six months.
It seemed like a final blow to this topsy-turvy Lakers season, a trio of injuries to an already depleted backcourt that resulted in Darius Morris playing 23 minutes out of necessity Wednesday and an 0-2 deficit, but then again L.A. had been through a day like this before this season.
Remember that Monday in January when the Lakers gathered everybody at the practice facility and then canceled practice as they were reeling from the news of finding out about Hill's hip, Dwight Howard's torn labrum in his shoulder and Pau Gasol's concussion all at the same time?
L.A. was 15-18 at the time, riding a three-game losing streak. Somehow from that point in the season, the Lakers managed to withstand Bryant's Achilles, and Nash's hamstring, and Gasol's plantar fascia tear, and Antawn Jamison's sprained wrist and World Peace's knee and still get into the playoffs with a record eight games above .500.
You could say the Lakers have already accomplished something just to get to where they are now. Nobody wants to hear that about a team with a $100 million payroll and one that was openly pining for the championship since last summer, but it's a truer narrative than saying that the Lakers were supposed to win it all this season and just screwed it up because of poor chemistry and bad coaching.
"It's just unfortunate and bad luck, but there's really nothing you can do about it," Meeks said.
Except try to play through it, which the Lakers deserve credit for, even if everybody in L.A. knows the purple and gold play for the Larry O'Brien trophy and not for "good job, good effort" cheers.
The question is after this season that seemingly had more limps than layups and more tears than 3s, how much resolve do the Lakers have left in the tank?
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"No matter what happens, we're going to keep fighting," Blake said. "Whether I'm playing or I'm not playing, whoever steps into somebody else's role, we have confidence in them. They're going to go out there and do their job and we're going to fight to the end, that's for sure."
The end just feels mighty close, especially against an opponent like San Antonio, which had effective performances from all three of its core winners in Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili in both games of the series, while the Lakers' game plan of just sticking with Howard and Gasol down low and hoping that some outside shots will fall clearly hasn't been enough.
The Lakers' ship has kept sailing through obstacle after obstacle, but eventually if you spring enough leaks, there just aren't enough fingers left to plug up the holes.
"Either we overcome it or go home [for the summer] and we do not want to go home," Howard said. "We fought to get into the playoffs and we are going to keep fighting. They can send as many guys as they want in there, but I have to trust the guys on my team to hit the shots. We just have to battle the rest of the series."
However long that might be.
Before Blake -- who had been an injury silver lining story before hurting his hammy, averaging 20-plus points in the two must-win games the Lakers played at the end of the regular season and tying Howard for the team high with 16 points in Game 2 -- left the arena for the night, there was one more injury question for him.
How'd he get that black eye on the left side of his face?
"I have a black eye right now?" Blake asked, totally oblivious to the bruise. "I get hit everywhere, man. I don't even know."
Blake, and his team, know now. One look in the mirror and they know just how much they're hurting.