Apr 18: With the addition of Dwight Howard and Steve Nash the Lakers were supposed to be a title contender but the season turned out to be a nightmare. After firing coach Mike Brown and hiring Mike D'Antoni --and his basketball system that didn't work-- and suffering multiple injuries including lossing Kobe for good, the Lakers weren't sure they would make the Playoffs until the final day of the regular season.
In the final game they were able to climb to number seven in the West avoiding this way the best team in the conference, the Oklahoma City Thunder and will face the San Antonio Spurs. Not that the Spurs are a much worse team that the Thunder but at least the Lakers defeated the Spurs without Kobe in their last meeting.
The good news for L.A. is that while Kobe Bryant was carrying the team in their battle to make the postseason he instructed Pau Gasol --who had been very unconfortable and unproductive in D'Antoni's system-- to move closer to rim where he's more dangerous and the result was that Pau has been playing his best basketball in a couple of years, scoring, rebounding and feeding Howard. D'Antoni seems to have taken notes of his mistakes and has left Pau there even with Kobe out.
Also, Dwiight Howard looks healtier than ever in L.A., making the Lakers bigs a threat for Tim Duncan and San Antonio.
On the other side L.A.'s backcourt is incredible thin. Steve Blake has been playing great but neither him nor Steve Nash when he returns seem capable of containing Tony Parker and to the absence of Kobe you have to add that Manu Ginobili has returned from injury just in time for the playoffs.
It won't be easy at all for the Lakers but least they will be playing in the 2013 playoffs, something that wasn't very clear a couple of weeks ago.
The regular season series went 2-1 for the Spurs.
The two teams have previously met in 11 Playoff editions and the Lakers came out victorious 8 times with a combined 34-18 record.