Kobe-Less L.A. Lakers a Tougher 1st-Round Matchup Than You Think

The Los Angeles Lakers lost more than just an immensely talented basketball player when Kobe Bryant's 2012-13 season was struck down by a torn Achilles.

They lost their emotional leader, a player who saw through months of frustration and created a light at the end of the tunnel. His borderline ludicrous guarantee to not only qualify for the postseason but to wreak havoc when they arrived gave this club the sense of belief that bandwagon fans and analysts had long before abandoned.

But they didn't lose everything.

They didn't lose their overwhelming size, perhaps their greatest asset even when a healthy Bryant was shredding opposing clubs for 27.3 points a night.

And they didn't lose their massive playoff potential either, according to CBSSports.com's Matt Moore:

As much as we think the Lakers suck, I'd bet there are a LOT of playoff teams who are pulling for Utah and Houston Wednesday.

— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) April 16, 2013 The Lakers haven't officially secured a playoff berth yet. They need either a win over the Houston Rockets or a Utah Jazz loss to the Memphis Grizzlies to do that.

Assuming they can find their way to the dance, though, the Lakers may have a lot more left in the tank than the basketball world is anticipating.

The new-look Mamba-less Lakers were on full display during L.A.'s 91-86 win over the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday. Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol imposed their will on the glass, combining for 33 rebounds in the contest. Howard and Steve Blake picked up Bryant's scoring slack with 49 total points, and the Lakers assisted on 18 of their 31 field goals.

And according to Howard, this was only a preview of the things to come. "Despite whatever has happened this season, we've got a chance to win this next game, go into the playoffs and make history," he said (via Greg Beacham of the Associated Press).

Article Source: Bleacher Report - Los Angeles Lakers