Lakers need a power boost before playoffs start
When will the Lakers flip the switch?
That’s what Lakers fans are asking. That’s what the media is asking.
Will the Lakers turn on that switch when the playoffs start Sunday?
And what if the Lakers flip that switch and it doesn’t come on?
What if the Lakers have hit the switch during the regular season and it won’t come on?
Lakers Coach Phil Jackson was asked that very same question Sunday after the Lakers lost to the Portland Trail Blazers, 91-88, at Staples Center.
Do you think your team can turn on the switch when the Western Conference playoffs start?
“I told the staff when we were sitting on the bench watching the game and I just said ‘the level of intensity is going to be so much different from this week, from this Sunday to next Sunday,’” Jackson said. “It will be an incredible amount of difference in the intensity that’s there in the game. The critical nature of every play becomes very obvious.”
Jackson paused for a few seconds and then offered up this nugget about his team’s ability to basically turn on that switch.
“If we can match that, we’ll be fine,” Jackson said.
The “if’ normally is not a good thing to be associated with the defending NBA champions, but it is with the Lakers.
They have lost six of their last nine games.
They have their star back, Kobe Bryant, after he missed two games because of swelling in his right knee.
But Bryant had another poor shooting game, missing 15 of his 23 shots.
He is 21 for 70 (30%) shooting from the field in his last three games.
Bryant did manage to dig into his old bag of late-game tricks against the Trail Blazers.
He made a three-pointer to pull the Lakers to within 86-84.
He drove the lane, scored while being fouled and made the free throw for an 87-86 Lakers lead with 31.5 seconds left.
The Lakers trailed by one point when Bryant stepped to the free-throw line with 6.9 seconds left and the opportunity to give the Lakers the lead.
But then Bryant failed to make two free throws, another reason to think that switch the Lakers will turn on is faulty.
The Lakers got a reprieve immediately when Pau Gasol, who had 23 points, 12 rebounds and three blocked shots, got the offensive rebound.
Gasol passed the ball out to Derek Fisher, who was fouled immediately.
Fisher, an 85.7% free-throw shooter, stepped to the line for two with 4.7 seconds left.
Fisher missed the first free throw but made the second to tie the score at 88-88.
Then Fisher committed the last foul of the game, a reach-in on Martell Webster while he attempted a running, one-legged three-pointer.
Webster made all three free throws.
The Lakers have two regular-season games left to try to turn the corner.
“Well, there’s not much left for us to accomplish as far as that, except wins. You always want to put wins in the column,” Jackson said. “I want to get some guys playing. I want to get some rhythm.
“We want to use some of the things that we’re going to use in the playoffs to our advantage. We have some things that we want to implement that guys will have an opportunity to work on.”
The Lakers hope to get center Andrew Bynum back for the postseason after he missed his 11th consecutive game because of a strained left Achilles’ tendon.
But Jackson doesn’t want to put the burden on Bynum to bring the Lakers out of their doldrums.
The Lakers know they will have the home-court advantage for as long as they are in the Western Conference playoffs.
Jackson said the hope is to practice at Staples Center this week before the playoffs start.
“We don’t have a shoot-around here. We use our own facility out there at the Toyota Center and to come here to work is very important,” Jackson said. “When you have home-court advantage, you’ve earned it, you got to use it the right way.”