The bulky brace on Andrew Bynum’s right leg has kept his knee healthy for the most part. Without it he may have had another serious injury when a teammate crashed into him this past weekend. Photo by Jeff Lewis After Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol banged up their knees, the Lakers may need to play it safe and coast their way into the playoffs. By Jason LewisSentinel Sports Editor
After stumbling their way into the All Star break with an embarrassing loss against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Los Angeles Lakers needed to hit the on switch. They needed to show that they were not going to be walked over by teams who are looking to take their title away from them. A 17-2 record coming out of the break, which included blowout victories over the San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks, the Lakers have put the league on notice that they are still the team to beat. Well, now that the Lakers have sent out that message, it’s time to flip the switch off for the final five games of the season. The Lakers are still in striking distance of catching the Spurs for the top seed in the Western Conference, and they can get ahead of the Chicago Bulls if they win the rest of their games, but with Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol leaving the game against the Denver Nuggets with knee injuries, maybe it’s time to pull the plug on trying to obtain a higher seed. Being healthy is more important than home court advantage. The Boston Celtics are proof of that. Last season they pretty much mailed in the second half of the season while other teams fought for higher seeds in the playoffs. The Celtics limited the minutes of their older players, even if it meant losing regular season games. Celtics head coach Doc Rivers felt that the only way that they would be able to make a run at the title was by being healthy. That strategy allowed the Celtics to defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers and Orlando Magic without home court advantage, and they took the Lakers to Game 7 in the NBA Finals. The Lakers made a great run at the No. 1 seed. They were 8.5 games behind the Spurs, and came within 1.5 games. The switch was on and they looked nearly unbeatable. But do they really need the top seed? The Lakers have the best road record in the league, and at times they have looked better away from home. The way it stands now the only series that the Lakers will not have home court advantage in the Western Conference is against the Spurs. Seeing that the Spurs are in a nosedive right now, they might get knocked off before the Lakers can get to them in the conference finals. Even if the Spurs do get their act together, the Lakers rolled through San Antonio and blew them out of their own building a month ago. The Bulls will more than likely have home court over the Lakers if the two teams should meet in the NBA Finals, but the Bulls are still going to have to get past the Celtics or the Miami Heat. The last two seasons the Lakers did not have the best record in the NBA, but they had home court advantage in the NBA Finals because the top seed in the East was knocked off. So there may not be a need to fight through the remainder of the regular season. The tandem of Bynum and Gasol is just as important as Kobe Bryant for the Lakers. Having them limp into the playoffs just to get a higher seed could come back to haunt them.
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