Odom’s back injury makes him questionable for Game 5
The Lakers reconvened Monday morning, some a little “somber,” others a “little grumpy,” and that was before Lamar Odom was determined to be questionable for Game 5 tonight against the Houston Rockets.
It wasn’t a great day for the top-seeded team in the Western Conference playoffs, a reality best captured by Kobe Bryant after he grew tired of hearing the same basic question -- “What’s wrong with you guys?” -- before delivering his best response.
“They just kicked our [butt],” he said a day after the Lakers’ 99-87 Game 4 loss to the undersized, undermanned Rockets. “They just gave it to us. Hopefully, we can return the favor [tonight].”
The Lakers were hearing it from just about everybody as they fell to a 2-2 tie in the best-of-seven series, their apparent lack of a killer instinct being dissected by almost every sports source.
From ESPN analyst Magic Johnson, who happens to own about 5% of the Lakers: “The Lakers embarrassed themselves, the organization and the Laker fans. The two leaders must step up and do something about this, and that’s Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher.”
From TNT analyst Charles Barkley: “The Lakers are guilty of having so much talent, they win because they are good, but they never play with a sense of urgency unless there is a [real] sense of urgency. I think it’s going to hurt them down the line whether it’s against Denver or the Cavaliers. I don’t think you can turn it on and off.”
From Lakers Coach Phil Jackson: “This team has a Jekyll and Hyde in it, a little bit, I’ll admit that.”
TV talking heads are one thing, but Jackson was particularly introspective about what had been unfolding in front of him throughout the season, be it home losses to Charlotte and Philadelphia or one-sided road losses to Portland.
Those defeats were only a matchstick compared to the pyrotechnics set off by the Rockets on Sunday.
Immediately after the game, Jackson talked about the team sometimes needing a “spark” in order to win. He was asked Monday if he should be the one creating it.
“I hope I am, but obviously I wasn’t Saturday and Sunday morning capable of doing that . . . ,” he said. “From the jump ball on, it was a tough situation for us. We just didn’t get any momentum, any traction, in the game.”
Players were in a somber mood at practice, to use Jackson’s words, and a little grumpy as well, to steal Bryant’s observation.
A CT scan and MRI exam revealed that Odom had a bruised lower back from the hard fall he took on a driving layup attempt in Game 4. If he can’t play tonight, the Lakers have a few options, but Jackson hinted he probably wouldn’t start Andrew Bynum against 6-foot-6 Rockets center Chuck Hayes.
Josh Powell could come off the bench and take Odom’s spot or maybe even Luke Walton if the Lakers want to go with a small-ball lineup of their own.
The Rockets, meanwhile, seem totally unfazed by the Lakers. Ron Artest suggested Game 4 wasn’t really the upset the media portrayed it to be.
“At the end of the day, you can go down the line and see who would you rather have on your team. . . . You got me and Kobe. OK, you take Kobe,” Artest said. “You got [Pau] Gasol and [Luis] Scola. Who would you rather have, Gasol or Scola? Who would you rather have, Aaron [Brooks] or Fisher? Who would you rather have, Von [Wafer] or Walton? Who would you rather have, Chuck or Bynum?
“At this point, we’re all NBA players. So they can say it was an embarrassment. But I think the Lakers would not mind having some players on this team. So it’s not like it’s a total embarrassment. I thought we played well.”
Despite Fisher’s struggles this series (7.3 points, 38.1% shooting), Jackson shrugged off a question about possibly decreasing the playing time of the 13-year veteran.
“Fish is a great performer under pressure,” Jackson said. “He’s got experience, he knows how to do it. He makes big shots for us. We’re very comfortable with him.”
In the grander scheme, the Lakers have one main challenge to overcome -- themselves.
They could move within a victory of the conference finals if they win tonight. It’ll take a better effort than the one in Game 4.
“We didn’t bring that ‘greatness’ and that’s obvious,” Gasol said. “If we want to be a championship team, we have to go after it every single game. We just can’t take for granted that because we’re better individually and maybe collectively we can play 70 or 80%.”
Times staff writer Broderick Turner contributed to this report.