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Bet I’d take: Lakers still make playoffs without Kobe

Apr 13, 2013, 1:45 PM EDT

Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

When teams lose a star player, there is often this short period where they play a little better without him — everyone else raises their game, the team plays with passion and commitment, and they get a few wins they shouldn’t. Grantland founder Bill Simmons called it the “Ewing effect” after the 1999 Knicks, who lost Patrick Ewing to an Achilles injury but beat a good Pacers squad without him and made it to the NBA finals (where they fell to the Spurs).

The Lakers only need two games of this effect to make the playoffs with Kobe Bryant now out with a torn Achilles. I bet they get it.

The Lakers (behind Kobe , before his injury) came back to beat the Warriors on Friday night, so they remain one game ahead of Utah for the final playoff spot in the West with two games to play. Utah has the tiebreaker, so the Lakers may need to win both games to hold their advantage.

The Lakers can get that if they feed their big men — Kobe provided an outside balance but the hardest part of the Lakers lineup for other teams to matchup with was always Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol on the front line. Get Gasol the ball at the elbow, have Howard out high for some pick-and-rolls and moving off the ball, and the Lakers will get their points.

But let’s be honest – the Lakers playoff road remains a bumpy one.

The Lakers two remaining games are hosting San Antonio on Sunday night and Houston next Wednesday. Utah is on the road — at Minnesota then at Memphis.

The big variable in this schedule is “who will the playoff teams put on the court.” That starts with the Spurs Sunday. Tony Parker returned to action Sunday for San Antonio, a team still in the mix trying to get the top overall seed in the West. The Spurs may well play both Parker and Tim Duncan Sunday against the Lakers because they will need the win. Then again, this is Gregg Popovich, so he might just sit everyone but Matt Bonner. Who knows.

Then the Lakers get the Rockets. This is a bad matchup for the Lakers — the Rockets play at the fastest pace in the league and the Lakers have a horrible transition defense, plus the Lakers are a bad pick-and-roll defensive team and both Jeremy Lin and James Harden run that play well.

The question we will not know until then is “will Houston be playing for anything?” If Houston rolls out their stars because they have a chance to get up to the six seed (and avoid San Antonio or Oklahoma City in the first round) they will play their stars. But they may not have anything to play for and Kevin McHale will empty out his bench for the game.

Utah needs to win both games it has left to have a chance. They should beat Minnesota but the Timberwolves are feisty, particularly at home. Then in the final game they get Memphis and face a similar situation as the Lakers — Memphis is the better team if they play their regular rotations, but if they don’t have anything to play for the Jazz may facing reserves.

Logic suggests the Jazz are looking like the playoff favorites. I just have a feeling the Lakers are going to find their way in. At that point, any Ewing effect will not be enough to save them. But the Lakers get in.

  1. money2long - Apr 13, 2013 at 1:49 PM

    dwight, you got the juice now, man.

    • spthegr8 - Apr 13, 2013 at 2:05 PM

      LMAO!!! Very true, D12 has got too step it up. alot off ppl won’t get that movie reference but that was one of my ALL-TIME favorites!! With this injury too Kobe, I feel like my head is spinning like Q’s was, right after Bishop ( 2 PAC ) shot Raheem!!!

      • musician0785 - Apr 13, 2013 at 4:22 PM

        is this spaight?

  2. thesecondlakerzealot - Apr 13, 2013 at 1:54 PM

    This is Dwights chance to show he can do it without Kobe. Although he cant improve the perimeter D

  3. spthegr8 - Apr 13, 2013 at 1:55 PM

    Even if we do make it in ( which I’m not sold we will yet ) Any chance we had of a First Round upset ARE GONE with Kobe out. That’s just my honest opinion! I HOPE I’m wrong but I’d doubt it!!!

  4. doctordunkenstein - Apr 13, 2013 at 1:57 PM

    This situation is dripping with Ewing theory potential. Nash gets the ball back in his hands instead of playing off the ball like he’s Derek fisher, pau gets more touches, and Howard gets to be the man and take more than 8 shots a game. Lakers might actually utilize their twin towers now that kobe is out. Would not be surprised if they make the playoffs and actually make a little bit of noise vs a banged up spurs team or a small thunder team.

    • badintent - Apr 13, 2013 at 3:33 PM

      Oh.You mean they get to play LIKE a Team ? Like they did last season when Kobe got hurt ? Metta ‘s numbers went way up ? you mean they play the team ball like the Knicks ? Interesting………………..
      We would love to have Earl Clark on the Knicks right now.

  5. Mr. Wright 212 - Apr 13, 2013 at 2:03 PM

    Spurs still have the #1 seed in their sights, but Pop is so unorthodox, he may STILL rest guys. Lakers cannot run with Houston, but they tend to move the ball more without Kobe, so who knows?

    Jazz nearly blew what many called a game in hand vs. MIN. They may very well lose at MIN. That Memphis game, regardless of whether the Grizzlies rest guys are not, is still a game I see Utah losing. Will be interesting.

    If not for any other reason than to avoid forfeiting the pick they would owe the Suns by missing the playoffs.

    • eventhorizon04 - Apr 13, 2013 at 4:58 PM

      “If not for any other reason than to avoid forfeiting the pick they would owe the Suns by missing the playoffs.”

      If they miss the playoffs, they give that pick to the Suns (Steve Nash trade).
      If they make the playoffs, they give that pick to the Cavaliers (Ramon Sessions trade).

  6. uscthom78 - Apr 13, 2013 at 2:13 PM

    How much does this Laker beatwriter get paid each time he mentions Kobe in the headline. This is getting freaking ridiculous.

    • eventhorizon04 - Apr 13, 2013 at 5:00 PM

      Half the NBA is resting players either in preparation for the playoffs or as part of the late-season tanking strategy to improve draft odds, so most of the remaining games now are meaningless (especially in the East where most of the seeding is more or less set).

      Kobe’s Achilles injury and potential impact on the playoff picture in the Western Conference is by far the biggest story right now, and I say that as a non-Lakers fan.

  7. deavn - Apr 13, 2013 at 2:14 PM

    Of course they will. That’s like saying, “I bet there’s 24 hours in a day.” of course they will.

  8. clevelandschronic2 - Apr 13, 2013 at 2:14 PM

    As a cavs fan it would be really helpful if the lakers better make the playoffs seeing as we have a top 15 draft pick if the do. I have never wished for a lakers win until last night. Watching kobe go down like that was horrible and i hope he can fully recover, but i actually see the lakers playing more like a team without him. Howard better get his ass in gear cuz this is his time to show every1 he can lead a team.

  9. j0esixpack - Apr 13, 2013 at 2:17 PM

    I’d take that bet too – they’re still in good shape to make the playoffs.

    Going deep in the playoffs? Forget it.

    Lakers fans will appreciate the fact that they now have an excuse for an early exist that probably would have happened anyways.

  10. drewvt6 - Apr 13, 2013 at 2:21 PM

    Is there any playoff team who depends more on one player than the Lakers/Kobe?

    • eventhorizon04 - Apr 13, 2013 at 5:10 PM

      Only 3 teams I can think of are…
      Clippers (CP3)
      Celtics (KG)
      Rockets (Harden)

      To be clear, the Heat aren’t going far in the playoffs without LeBron, the OKC Thunder aren’t going far in the playoffs without Durant, the Spurs aren’t going far in the playoffs without Parker, the Bulls aren’t going far in the playoffs without Rose, etc.

      However, looking at teams where if 1 guy doesn’t play well, they have almost no shot of winning even regular season games, the Clippers, Celtics, and Rockets don’t have reliable enough #2 options to survive.

      Wade and/or Bosh can lift the Heat when LeBron has a (rare) off-night.
      Martin and (especially) Westbrook are more than happy to take more shots if Durant is having an offnight.
      The Spurs are a well-oiled machine that runs well even when missing a star or two.
      The Bulls’ defense can hold up well enough that even without Rose’s scoring, they still can win games at a high rate, as they’ve proven for 2 seasons in a row.

      However, the Clippers without CP3 look awful since they need him for their half-court offense to function. Otherwise, it’s just Crawford Iso-plays.
      The Celtics defense is completely reliant on KG, and they can only win games with an elite defensive performance at this point with their offense sputtering.
      The Rockets depend on Harden’s creativity and ability to draw fouls whenever they’re not able to run in transition.

      • jimeejohnson - Apr 13, 2013 at 6:57 PM

        You forgot a biggie: Carmelo Anthony of the NY Knicks.

  11. csilojohnson - Apr 13, 2013 at 2:30 PM

    Is this Kobe watch? 7 Straight articles about him. Or is the NBA really that boring?

    • Kurt Helin - Apr 13, 2013 at 3:03 PM

      says the guy who clicked and commented on the story.

    • uscthom78 - Apr 13, 2013 at 4:18 PM

      I don’t think we can expect a lot of non-laker articles on

      • jimeejohnson - Apr 13, 2013 at 6:58 PM

        Don’t let the door hit you in the head on the way out.

  12. dalucks - Apr 13, 2013 at 3:04 PM

    Congratulations on trading for Dwight Howard and giving up three 1st round draft picks for Steve Nash to be the 8th seed in the West. For all of your hard work, a broom comes with the sweep.
    As a Laker fan since 1980, please tell me when the goals for the team turned from winning championships to moral victories about making the playoffs as a 8th seed.
    Stop making excuses and start winning games. This is unacceptable from a Laker team. Time to start firing people from the GM down.
    Reminds me of the 1993 season.

  13. notoriousbri - Apr 13, 2013 at 3:26 PM

    Bet I’d take. Lakers will be as relevant in the playoffs as they have been in the regular season.
    This is the dream team that Kobe wanted and lobbied for. What does that say about effort and coaching and ability to play as a team. Everyone took a crap on the Heat when they came together and didn’t win. Its not Easy. Lakers should have learned that when they brought in Malone and Payton.

    Kobe has been almost superhuman and there is nobody I’d rather have with the ball in his hand down 1, but its over for the Lakers. Gonna be over for them for the next few years.

  14. doublezero74 - Apr 13, 2013 at 3:49 PM

    So they make playoffs and…..get trucked by OKC. Without the franchise guy, who was playing 47 minutes a night the last two weeks in order to scratch and claw their way to the 8th seed, they are better off not making the playoffs and getting better shot a high draft pick

    • manchestermiracle - Apr 13, 2013 at 5:07 PM

      A pick they don’t own. Good homework Mr. Analyst.

    • eventhorizon04 - Apr 13, 2013 at 5:13 PM

      They don’t have a draft pick this year –

      If they make the playoffs, their pick goes to Cleveland (Ramon Sessions trade).
      If they miss the playoffs, their pick goes to Phoenix (Steve Nash trade).

  15. bucs24 - Apr 13, 2013 at 3:52 PM

    Good bye lakers for the next 10 years

    • manchestermiracle - Apr 13, 2013 at 5:12 PM

      It’s good to have a dream, even if most sane people think it’s stupid.

      • jimeejohnson - Apr 13, 2013 at 6:59 PM

        Best comment ever!

  16. norcalsportsknowledge - Apr 13, 2013 at 4:18 PM

    Of course the lakers will make the playoffs, the league is doing everything they can to get them in, the officiating has made it obvious their trying to help them into the playoffs. NBA has by far the most corrupt refereeing. The more $ the league makes, the more the referee’s make. Stern has to go!

    • manchestermiracle - Apr 13, 2013 at 5:10 PM

      What a tired argument. Barely competent does not equal corrupt. But, for the sake of argument, if they are so corrupt what does that say about you for continuing to watch corruption in action?

    • jimeejohnson - Apr 13, 2013 at 7:01 PM

      I’ll take a SF Bay Area team over one from L.A. any day, but what about when Stern vetoed the Chris Paul trade to the Lakers. I’m not even a Laker fan but your comment is just plain wrong. Ain’t no time to hate. Barely time to wait.

      • eerock41 - Apr 14, 2013 at 11:43 AM

        stern was the acting owner of new Orleans at the time. He knew like the rest of the world that was a very one sided trade. Get off stren vetoed the trade as the owner of the team he said no this is not a good trade for my team. Not every team is going to fall to the lakers trade demands. If more teams would actually look for a fair trade the lakers would not have hash, or howard.

  17. kash71 - Apr 13, 2013 at 4:22 PM

    To be the man you got to beat the man,

    unfortunately the way I see D12, he can’t beat the man and carry the Lakers.

  18. tubal22 - Apr 13, 2013 at 6:26 PM

    Hey Kurt, you could just put your money in the ref’s betting pool. That’s a bet they all took and are making sure that they don’t lose.

  19. patfic15 - Apr 13, 2013 at 6:27 PM

    They will play better without the hog. All they did was stand around and watch him anyway. Guess what guys? Play!

  20. jimeejohnson - Apr 13, 2013 at 7:05 PM

    If he cannot make at least 50% of his foul shots, you’re right. Dwight Howard is not the second coming of Mr. Shaq Attack O’Neal, who was so dominant during those championship years that it didn’t matter that he couldn’t make his free throws.

  21. mogogo1 - Apr 13, 2013 at 8:40 PM

    This has been such a weird year for the Lakers in so many ways. But strangest of all has been how they went from “championship or bust” at the beginning of the season to “just making the playoffs will prove something.” Not sure how that happened, but it’s ludicrous. That team was never constructed to hold on to be the 8th seed. And without Kobe their season will be extended by no more than 4 games even if they make the playoffs.

  22. lemfaxx - Apr 13, 2013 at 11:42 PM

    Or another louisville kind of story…?

  23. davidly - Apr 14, 2013 at 4:58 AM

    It depends more on the health of MWP and Nash than whether or not KB is absent. If the first two can flat out ball, then they’re in.

    If the team as it is now without Bryant had been together healthy all year, for that matter, they’d have as good a chance as they did as they were two nights ago, with Bryant.

    Then again, if I had wheels I’d be a wagon.

  24. omniusprime - Apr 14, 2013 at 8:58 AM

    The Lakers are now Dwight Howard’s team and Dwight has a chance to prove he’s superstar material. We can only hope that Kobe’s super competitive nature has rubbed off on Dwight. Now the Lakers need to get back to Laker basketball, feed the big men and let them win the games. I’m looking forward to seeing Dwight and Pau go to town crushing Tiny Tim Dunkin’ Donuts.

    I’m hoping the Lakers make the playoffs but also hoping they don’t in hopes that that will get Dumbtoni fired right away. I heard Charles Barkley lay the blame for Kobe’s injury at the feet of Dumbtoni, Charles said that Dumbtoni failed to protect Kobe from himself and that’s the truth of it. If Dumbtoni wasn’t such a craven coward he would have sat Kobe for brief periods after he injured his legs in the last game. Some rest and hydration may have been the magic elixir to have kept Kobe from blowing out his Achilles.

    The only hope the Lakers have for the future is to resign Howard, fire Dumbtoni and get a real coach who can coach Laker style big man basketball. Plus we need to keep Pau and trade away Trash Nash and Steve Flake, the two most incompetent point guards in the NBA. We need a great young point guard, that’s what we were supposed to get after dropping D Fish, then we end up with an even older far more decrepit Trash Nash. We need a Stephen Curry or Kyrie Irving to bring some youth and speed to the team.

    Thanks Kobe!!!! Get Well Soonest Kobe!!! Fire Dumbtoni!!! Trade Trash Nash and Steve Flake!!!

    • eerock41 - Apr 14, 2013 at 11:46 AM

      Lakers don’t make the playoffs and most likely you can kiss Howards ass as he is walking out the door.

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