Updated: April 13, 2011, 8:59 AM ET

1. Bynum's Knee Question Looms Largest Now

Adande By J.A. Adande
ESPN.com
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LOS ANGELES -- It turned out that Tuesday's Lakers-Spurs game -- even with the Lakers unable to catch the Spurs atop the Western Conference and the Spurs uninterested in playing their trio of stars -- still could prove to be the turning point of the NBA season. It all depends on the outcome of an MRI exam to be performed Wednesday on the right knee Andrew Bynum hyperextended during the game.

Bynum will not play in Wednesday's season finale at Sacramento.

On his way out of the arena after the game, Bynum told reporters that the injury was "painful when it happened, but it's not that bad right now."

"He could be out a couple games," Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "Could be a bone bruise involved. But his reassurance was, 'I'm going to be OK.'"

That's all Lakerland has to go on for the moment. And it's not as if there's plenty of other reason for optimism. Nothing in the Lakers' play of late has resembled a team that should even be discussed in championship terms, including this 102-93 victory over the San Antonio semi-Spurs that snapped a five-game Lakers losing streak. They're clinging to the belief that the playoffs will inspire some better performances, something along the lines of the 17-1 stretch they ran off after the All-Star break, a run of stellar basketball that hinged on the dominant defense and rebounding of Bynum.

Which is why the thought of them trying to go through these playoffs without him -- something that entered everyone's mind at Staples Center when they watched him slowly walk off the court -- alters the entire view of the playoffs. Take away Bynum and you take away the advantage the Lakers have over everyone else.

With just more than eight minutes remaining in the second quarter Bynum was running back on defense when he stepped on DeJuan Blair's foot and his right knee buckled. Yes, that knee. The one with the big black brace on it. The one he had surgically repaired last summer.

Bynum sat on the ground, his knees up by his chest as if he were back in kindergarten. He stayed there while Kobe Bryant shot a technical free throw at the other end of the court. Finally Bynum got up, checked out of the game and went straight to the locker room.

The Lakers also were without Matt Barnes, who missed the game with a sore right knee and won't travel to Sacramento. Steve Blake has chicken pox and is out indefinitely. The Lakers still need another victory to secure the No. 2 seed in the West and home-court advantage in the second round of the playoffs.

The Lakers hadn't been able to beat anyone lately even with their lineup intact. And they struggled against the Spurs with San Antonio's starting lineup sitting on the bench all night. Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili wore street clothes, and Tony Parker wore Spurs sweats over a uniform that he never got sweaty. Antonio McDyess sat out as well.

San Antonio started a lineup of Gary Neal and George Hill at guard, Tiago Splitter and Richard Jefferson at forward and Blair at center. And they didn't play those "starters" nearly as much as the Lakers played their starters. So much of the game featured Lakers starters against the Spurs' third team, and still the Spurs stayed in it until the final minutes, keeping the outcome of this game in doubt much longer than it should have been, forcing Jackson to use his key players far more than he intended with a back-to-back game looming.

That's why it almost felt like a victory for the Spurs.

This was going to be about them, but they once again found a way to get overshadowed. They're the No. 1 seed in a very competitive Western Conference, yet you never hear them mentioned as championship contenders. People are projecting a Lakers-Thunder conference finals as though San Antonio has no say in the matter.

"I think we just get in the way of the conversation at times," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "I kind of get a kick out of it. It's always about somebody else. For whatever reason, we just don't engender that much attention. I think it's the way we carry ourselves. It's the way we like it."

Popovich has coached four championship teams, so he knows what they look like. I asked him if this team had the look of a champion.

"I think we can play with anybody," he said. "The question for us is if we can stay healthy and last the whole playoff series against these young, healthy, athletic, deep teams.

"You look at the Portlands and the Oklahoma Citys and people who haven't been in the finals of the Western Conference yet and they're on their way to doing it, and they're a bear. They're a bear for us, for the Lakers, for the Celtics, for anybody. We've got a lot of really good young teams out there and they're all breaking through."

That doesn't exactly make you want to fly to Vegas and take advantage of an undervalued Spurs team, does it? Sure, Popovich would be the last one to play his own saxophone. But I get the sense he really doesn't see his team as the favorite. If he didn't, he wouldn't have gimmicked up the offense and had his team taking all those 3-point shots. Not if he thought his team could just line up and beat people.

But he threw out the B version of his team and almost beat the Lakers on Tuesday night. The Lakers are the ones who have the greater injury concerns right now.

The once-anticipated showdown for Western supremacy didn't materialize. What did emerge were more doubts about the Lakers, even in the wake of their first victory in 11 days.


Dimes past: March 24 | 25-27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31| April 1 | 2 | 6 | 7 | 8-10 | 11 | 12

2. Grizzlies Seem Content To Finish Eighth

By John Hollinger
ESPN.com


PORTLAND, Ore. -- For the first time in my career, the final question came from a coach and not a reporter.

"Anyone want to ask about the game?" said Memphis Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins. When his request was met by the sound of crickets chirping, he stormed off.

Nobody asked about the game because Memphis's 102-89 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers was determined before tipoff, when the Grizzlies opted to sit Tony Allen and Zach Randolph to rest them for the playoffs. Presumably they both will sit out Wednesday's season finale against the Los Angeles Clippers as well, with a Memphis loss assuring the No. 8 seed and a first-round matchup against the San Antonio Spurs … and guaranteeing Memphis won't play the Los Angeles Lakers.

"I didn't want to play Zach these last two games," Hollins said, "because I want to get him rested, fresh. He hurt his elbow, he's got the bad knee, and I just didn't want him banging for two more games when we've got the playoffs."

"Tony Allen is hurt," Hollins insisted. "His knee and his ankle both swelled up on him last game. He's had injuries all year long, but he's been able to play through them. I didn't want him to play through them tonight."

Hollins answered a follow-up question about playoff seedings influencing the decision more angrily. "Tony Allen is hurt. Do you understand English? If it was back in the regular season or a playoff game he would have tried to play. I don't know how effective he would have been. He would have played if I had let him, but it doesn't matter tonight to play when we have a second season."

In other words, Allen was hurt, but he could have played if it was either earlier or later, and he could have played today, too, but he didn't … got it?

Obviously, playoff matchups figured into this decision at least as much as injuries. The Grizzlies could have put themselves as high as No. 6 in the Western Conference standings with wins in their final two regular-season games, and seemingly would have had a better chance of drawing one of the two potential opponents they match up extremely well against -- Dallas and Oklahoma City, both of which they beat in three out of four games this season.

Instead, the Griz appeared to focus on the worst-case scenario (facing the Lakers) to the exclusion of the best scenario (actually winning a playoff round), and now will possibly land in a difficult 1-vs.-8 series against a 60-win team. What made it odd was that Allen and Randolph both seemed less than mortally wounded at shootaround earlier in the day.

Perhaps I'm being unfair; certainly health is paramount in the postseason, and Memphis did kind of, sort of try to win the game with its other players. (The best players started, but the scrubs all saw extensive duty; Ish Smith, Greivis Vasquez and Hamed Haddadi played a combined 50 minutes).

Nonetheless, it was an odd conclusion to the three-way chase for the sixth position in the Western Conference. And on this night, the thinking behind it was of far more interest than what happened in the game.

3. Daily Dime Live

Zach Harper, TrueHoop Network bloggers and fans give their in-game opinions on all topics throughout Tuesday's slate of NBA roundball talk in Daily Dime Live.

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