2011 NBA Playoffs: The Lakers’ Biggest Hurdle Is in the Mirror

Every April, Lakers fans have to be wondering which team will show up in the postseason.

This year is no exception. 

Will they see the team that went 17-1 after the All-Star break or the team that lost five in a row and barely beat San Antonio and Sacramento? 

The two-time defending champs face the double dilemma of being at their most vulnerable while the Western Conference is more loaded than it’s been during their reign. 

As a result, that annual Finals trip is no longer a safe guarantee. 

Oh sure, folks are smart not to count the Lakers out. Everyone’s deferring to them as the West’s favorites and certainly they showed it by going 4-0 against Dallas and San Antonio in the second half 

Yet living in Los Angeles, you can feel a different edge about this team. Like there’s more at stake and that championship aura just doesn’t feel as confident as before. 

It’s because for the first time in four years, the Lakers face more teams that aren’t scared of them, can match up better and are hungry to prove themselves. 

Last year, they entered the playoffs after losing seven of their last 11; they also entered as the No. 1 seed with home court advantage and benefited from seeing their top rivals bounced earlier than expected in the playoffs. 

This year’s different.

San Antonio has a great balance of youth and experience; Oklahoma City is now tougher with Kendrick Perkins in the middle; and Dallas, well—they were a threat before the Lakers beat them by nearly 30. 

But the more things change, the more they the same.

Namely, all eyes remain on the left knee of Andrew Bynum. The MRI said Tuesday’s injury was a slight bone bruise and he’s expected to play in Sunday’s opener against New Orleans. 


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