Getting kicked in the shin doesn’t sound like it would take that long to heal, or even cause you to miss any games at all. But in Kobe Bryant’s case, the Los Angeles Lakers and coach Mike Brown aren’t taking any chances. Bryant missed his second straight game last night after playing for 138 in a row. Brown says Bryant can take as much time as he needs to heal,no matter if the Lakers are winning or losing.
“I’d rather he’d be fresh going into the playoffs and us being fourth or fifth than him hurting or dinged up going into the playoffs and we’re third,” Brown said. “If we play the right way, whether Kobe’s playing or not, we should still be OK or give ourselves a chance to still get that third seed.”
Without Kobe, the Lakers got blown out by the Phoenix Suns and barely squeaked out a win against the New Orleans Hornets, so if Kobe doesn’t come back soon, slipping down the standings is inevitable. The Lakers have to play in San Antonio against the Spurs tomorrow night, a game I don’t think they have a prayer of winning without Kobe.
The Lakers are also in danger of losing the Pacific Division title. They’re only a game-and-a-half up on the L.A. Clippers for control of the division. They’ve won it the last 4 years, but Brown doesn’t put it at the top of the priority list.
“These guys have so many division titles,” Brown added. “I don’t think they know how many they have. They don’t care about that. If you win it, great, if you don’t, let’s go play.”
When only 6 games separate the 3-seed from the 10-seed, a bad run could mean a big drop, but Brown does have a point. Honestly, is there any playoff team in the Western Conference that you really want to play? Even the currently 8th seeded Denver Nuggets are no pushover. If you’re going to represent the West in the NBA finals, you’ll be playing 3 quality teams, what does it matter what order you play them in? There’s also no way the Lakers are climbing up to the 2-seed, so they most likely only have a chance at home court advantage for the first round, not much to fight for.
However, I do think momentum is a huge factor in the playoffs, much bigger than your seed. So if the Lakers want to succeed, they can sacrifice a few games for the next few days, but they’d better get Kobe back and finish out the season strong so they can get in the habit of winning before the playoffs start. There are only a couple weeks of regular season basketball left, it’s best not to limp into your first round matchup, or it will be a short postseason.