Lakers have no playoff momentum
Bad day for the Lakers, who lost another player to injury, got drilled by their cross-town rival and angered the All-Star forward on the team they’ll face in the first round of the playoffs.
Sasha Vujacic left with a severely sprained left ankle in the Lakers’ 107-91 loss Wednesday to the Clippers and might not be available against Oklahoma City, which plays the Lakers in Game 1 Sunday at noon at Staples Center.
Vujacic’s injured ankle wasn’t the Lakers’ only problem. There was also Kevin Durant’s injured ego.
The star of the Thunder told The Oklahoman he felt insulted when Lakers Coach Phil Jackson publicly stated how often he got to the free-throw line this season, a hint Jackson obviously hoped would be digested by referees in the first round.
“That’s disrespectful to me,” said Durant, who tied LeBron James for a league high by averaging 10.2 free-throw attempts this season. “I work so hard, and obviously since he’s not around he doesn’t see how hard I work and how much I’ve gotten better through the season. It’s kind of unfortunate for him to say that about me.”
The Lakers (57-25) finished with the best record in the Western Conference and third-best in the NBA, but they have worries that go beyond the simmering mind of the league’s leading scorer. (Durant averaged 30.1 points a game).
The Lakers finished the regular season with a 3-6 skid and lost Vujacic to a high ankle sprain when he landed on the foot of Clippers guard Mardy Collins after a shot with 2:51 left in the second quarter.
Vujacic was helped off the court by trainer Gary Vitti and reserve guard Jordan Farmar, who sustained an injury of his own the previous night (strained left hamstring) and played 1.3 seconds against the Clippers so he could officially say he played all 82 regular-season games.
X-rays were negative for Vujacic, who will undergo further testing Thursday.
Pau Gasol had 18 points and 17 rebounds for the Lakers, who were already playing without Andrew Bynum (strained left Achilles’ tendon) and Kobe Bryant (sore knee, finger).
Clippers guard Steve Blake had his first triple-double Wednesday — 23 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds — and the Clippers (29-53) had 10 more victories than last season, but somehow they managed to outdo themselves in terms of trauma and drama.
Trauma? Prized power forward Blake Griffin never played a regular-season minute.
“It’s been tough to sit out,” said Griffin, who fractured his left kneecap in the final preseason game. “But from my point of view, my rookie year is next year.”
Drama? General Manager and Coach Mike Dunleavy would end up losing both jobs, about a month apart. The Clippers dismissed him as general manager, via an e-mailed release, around halftime of a game in Orlando on March 9.
Jackson often dismisses the Clippers and their owner, Donald Sterling, but he had nothing but kind words Wednesday when asked if the Clippers had a secure future.
“Someone in my past recently just made a very bold statement. He feels very strongly that this is a franchise that’s going to move forward in the next year,” Jackson said.
The Lakers now have the opportunity to move forward in the postseason.
Durant will have something to say about it, apparently.
Times staff writer Lisa Dillman contributed to this report.