FINAL: Spurs 103, Lakers 82
This was supposed to end in championship glory. Instead, the Lakers XX Game 4 loss to the San Antonio Spurs marked the second playoff sweep in the past three seasons. This year ended with a bust, too many injuries to count and an endless list of questions surrounding this offseason.
The most pressing one: will Dwight Howard re-sign with the Lakers? He could for five years and $117.9 million instead of a four-year, $87.6 million deal with another team. Sorry Laker fans, who keep clamoring for Phil Jackson to coach. Mike D’Antoni, who has two more guaranteed years worth $8 million, won’t need to worry. Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said last week D’Antoni will return next season, crediting how he managed a 40-32 record his first season despite no training camp and persisting injuries, notably to Nash (fractured left leg).
The Lakers won’t have much clarity elsewhere.
They could use the amnesty provision on Bryant ($30.5 million), Gasol ($19.9 million), World Peace ($7.7 million) or Blake ($4 million). World Peace might opt out of his player option in hopes for a longer but less expensive contract, although that runs the risk of the Lakers letting him walk.
The Lakers also will have expiring contracts to Antawn Jamison, Clark, Morris, Goudelock, Robert Sacre and Devin Ebanks, although the latter is sure to leave considering he’s rarely played all season.
The Lakers will have some relief from the $6.5 million to $7 million they owe over the next two seasons after firing Mike Brown, who just became head coach at Cleveland. It’s likely the Lakers won’t calculate the total savings for another month after reviewing Brown’s contract, but a source familiar with the situation said the savings are a “grain of salt.”
THIRD QUARTER, Spurs 78, Lakers 58
And the award for the Laker to get an ejection in an elimination games goes to….Dwight Howard. He earned an ejection and fourth technical foul of the series by arguing a call with 9:51 left in the third quarter. In what may have marked his last game as a Laker, Howard finished with seven points on 2 of 2 shooting and eight rebounds. You can’t make this up in Laker land, but Kobe Bryant came out on crutches with 8:47 left in the third quarter to sit on the bench. A suddenly vibrant Staples Center crowd cheered him as he sat on the bench. It provided a nice distraction from the mess on the floor.
HALFTIME: Spurs 52, Lakers 34
These are your 2012-13 Lakers: they end one offensive possession with Darius Morris shooting a jumper that hits off the backboard as the shot clock expires; Chris Duhon forces an entry pass that goes over Pau Gasol’s head; Earl Clark stepped out of bounds on one possession.
Yup, you can kiss this season goodbye. Unless, of course, the following scenarios happen. Lakers find a way to stop Tony Parker (15 points). Or Dwight Howard (seven points) and Pau Gasol (10 points) get open looks despite persistent double teams. Or Andrew Goudelock restores his Game 3 magic and scores more than just two points. Or the Lakers avoid collecting more than their 16 turnovers.
All unlikely scenarios, leaving the Lakers with only two questions. Will Devin Ebanks play? Contrary to past seasons, will every Laker ensure they don’t get ejected and take off their jersey?
FIRST QUARTER: Spurs 26, Lakers 20
Too many signs show the Lakers are only three quarters away from ending a disastrous 2012-13 season. The Lakers have already committed eight turnovers. Dwight Howard remains frustrated with San Antonio’s physical play, so much that he drew his third consecutive technical foul the series. Manu Ginobili closed out the Spurs’ offense throwing down a one-handed dunk with ease.
Howard leads the Lakers with six points and four rebounds, but he didn’t get a single field-goal attempt until 5:59 left in the first quarter. Meanwhile, San Antonio has shot 55 percent from the field, including eight points from Tony Parker.
Follow L.A. Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org