Trailing by eight points at halftime was no big deal for the Lakers, but the possibility of injuries to two of their best player was one, however. First, Pau Gasol suffered a nasty cut below his left eye when D.J. Mbenga smacked him and he had to go to the locker room. Then, Kobe Bryant fell to the court after sinking a jumper from the wing and crashed into the first row of seats. Bryant stayed down while Chris Paul made a 3-pointer and Ron Artest countered with a 3 at the buzzers for the Lakers. Then everyone rushed to see about Bryant, who rose after a time and walked to the locker room under his own power. Bryant scored 16 points on 7-for-13 shooting in the half. Paul had 11 points and 11 assists.
Andrew Bynum suffered no setbacks in his bruised right knee and will play Sunday in Game 1 of the Lakers’ first-round playoff series against the New Orleans Hornets. Matt Barnes said his sore right knee was improved after he had it drained of fluid Thursday and said he planned to play Sunday. Lakers coach Phil Jackson said Friday that Barnes was “probable.” Today, Jackson called Barnes, “questionable.” Asked about it, Jackson joked, “He’s probably questionable.” Steve Blake won’t play because of chicken pox.
Asked if the Lakers were ready after finishing the regular season with losses in five of seven games, Kobe Bryant said rather succinctly, “The moment is here.”
My prediction: Lakers in four.
Andrew Bynum practiced today with his teammates and reported only minor pain in his bruised right knee. If he suffers no setbacks in Saturday’s workout, he’s likely to play in Game 1 of the Lakers’ first-round playoff series against the Hornets on Sunday.
Matt Barnes did not practice because of soreness in his surgically-repaired right knee. Lakers coach Phil Jackson said he would list Barnes as probable to play in Game 1. Barnes sat out the last two games after waking up with pain in his knee Sunday night.
Jackson said he paid a visit Thursday night to Steve Blake, who has chicken pox. Jackson delivered a DVD, so Blake could stay up with what the Lakers are watching. Jackson reported Blake “looks very speckled. He has a lot of poxes on him.”
Blake won’t play in Game 1, but Jackson held hope that he could play in Game 2.
Also, Ron Artest did not practice after hyperextending a knee Wednesday against the Sacramento Kings. Artest’s status for Sunday wasn’t immediately clear. Jackson said he hoped the veteran small forward would be ready to play against the Hornets.
If that really was the final game to be played by the Kings in Sacramento, then what a shame. I’ve given this some thought since the final buzzer sounded on the Lakers’ overtime victory over the Kings on Wednesday and I think the fan support over the years was amazing. Too bad every game wasn’t as well attended and as exciting as Wednesday’s game. Arco Arena was like an old-time college fieldhouse, with the fans right on top of the court. It was hot and loud and fun. The Honda Center, where the Maloof family hopes to move the team, is a great place, too. Just different. The luxury suites and all the modern amenities make it the perfect destination if the team is to move. It just won’t be the same. A piece of the NBA will be gone forever.
Personally, I’ll never forget the 2002 Western Conference finals between the Lakers and the Kings. Game 7, won by the Lakers in overtime in Sacramento, was incredible, starting with the sound system blaring James Brown’s “Payback” at full volume before the tip and ending with 5 extra minutes after the Kings couldn’t put away the Lakers. It was a fitting ending to a wild series. It also made Wednesday’s overtime game seem like the perfect finale, if that’s what’s going to happen next. The Kings pushed and pushed and the crowd got louder and louder until the teams had to play 5 more minutes.
So, farewell Sacramento, thanks for the memories.
The Lakers’ 116-108 overtime victory tonight over the Sacramento Kings means they clinched the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs and will face the seventh-seeded New Orleans in the opening round. Here’s the schedule:
Game 1: Sunday at Staples Center, 12:30 p.m., Channel 7.
Game 2: Wednesday at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m. TNT.
Game 3: April 22 at New Orleans, 6:30 p.m., ESPN.
Game 4: April 24 at New Orleans, 6:30 p.m., TNT.
Game 5 (if necessary): April 26, at Staples Center, TBA, TBA.
Game 6 (if necessary): April 28, at New Orleans, TBA, TBA.
Game 7 (if necessary): April 30, at Staples Center, TBA, TBA.
All times Pacific.
The Lakers were 4-0 during the regular season against the Hornets.
SACRAMENTO — The NBA wasted no time in passing judgment on Kobe Bryant’s homophobic slur shouted at referee Bennie Adams during Tuesday’s victory over the San Antonio Spurs. Bryant’s comment and apology was covered in an earlier post. Here’s what NBA commissioner David Stern said in a statement released by the league:
“Kobe Bryant’s comment during last night’s game was offensive and inexcusable. While I’m fully aware that basketball is an emotional game, such a distasteful term should never be tolerated. Accordingly, I have fined Kobe $100,000. Kobe and everyone associated with the NBA know that insensitive or derogatory comments are not acceptable and have no place in our game or society.”
Bryant explained himself this way during an interview with John Ireland and Steve Mason on KSPN (710): “The concern I have is for those who follow what I say and look to me as a role model or whatever it is, not to take what was said as a message of hate or a license to degrade, or embarrass or tease. That’s something I don’t want to have happen. It’s important for me to talk about that issue, because it’s OK to be who you are. I don’t want this issue to be a part of something to magnify something that shouldn’t be.”
SACRAMENTO — Andrew Bynum has a bone bruise in his right knee, an MRI exam revealed today. “The injury is not deemed to be serious,” the team said in a statement. Matt Barnes also had an MRI on his surgically-repaired right knee,which revealed no new damage. Neither will play in tonight’s regular-season finale against the Sacramento Kings, but they are expected to be ready when the playoffs begin this weekend. Bynum hyperextended his knee during the Lakers’ victory Tuesday over the San Antonio Spurs. Barnes could not play against the Spurs after aggravating his knee after Sunday’s loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
SACRAMENTO — Kobe Bryant shouted a gay slur at referee Bennie Adams after picking up his 15th technical foul of the season during the Lakers’ victory Tuesday over the San Antonio Spurs at Staples Center. Bryant could be heard screaming, “Bennie,” at the veteran referee. TNT’s mic then goes silent and Bryant said something else.
Here’s Bryant’s statement today: “What I said last night should not be taken literally. My actions were out of frustration during the heat of the game, period. The words expressed do NOT reflect my feelings towards the gay and lesbian communities and were NOT meant to offend anyone.”
Meanwhile, the Lakers signed shooting guard Trey Johnson, who was the D-League’s second-leading scorer with an average of 25.5 points with the Bakersfield Jam.
The Lakers also recalled forward Derrick Caracter from the Jam.
Finally, results of the MRI exam on Andrew Bynum’s hyperextended right knee is expected later today.
Kobe Bryant scored 27 points, Lamar Odom added 23 and Pau Gasol scored 17 points and grabbed 17 rebounds to help the Lakers end a five-game losing streak with a nerve-jangling victory tonight over the San Antonio Spurs. Now, the worst the Lakers can do is finish as the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference playoffs. Derek Fisher scored 13 and Shannon Brown added nine points in a reserve role. Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Antonio McDyess did not play for the conference-leading Spurs.