Would a Successful LA Lakers Postseason Run Bring an End to the Kobe Era?

No one is really expecting the Los Angeles Lakers to do much in the 2013 NBA playoffs, but what would it mean for injured star Kobe Bryant if his team managed to ride its current momentum to the Western Conference Finals and beyond?

The Lakers managed to weather injuries to point guard Steve Nash and Bryant, and enter the postseason with five victories in a row, one of them coming against their first-round opponent the San Antonio Spurs.

The Lakers won their final two games against the Spurs and Houston Rockets without the services of Bryant, and in each of those victories, they played a style that seems tailor-made for the postseason.

Los Angeles slowed the pace of each contest by pounding the ball inside to Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard, and the team played strong, consistent defense for most of both games.

The Lakers were not perfect in either instance, but the ball flowed freely and they maximized the interior advantage that will precede them in the playoffs.

There is no other team in the NBA playoffs with an inside duo as dominant as Gasol and Howard have been over the season's final games, and a healthy Bryant doesn't change that.

But Bryant's absence sure does make the picture a lot clearer.

Lakers fans may not want to hear this, but the chemistry Howard and Gasol have displayed recently has always lurked just beneath the surface. Bryant's tendency to control the flow of the game has prevented that chemistry from manifesting.

Well, you sure can see it now.

During the Lakers' regular-season-ending 5-0 stretch, Gasol and Howard combined to average 40 points and 24 rebounds while shooting better than 57 percent from the field.

Included in those five games were two triple-double performances from Gasol, which illustrated the Lakers' unique ability to dominate both ends of the floor from the post.

Are there any other teams in the postseason with a...

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