Despite earning the top seed and home court advantage throughout the NBA Western Conference Playoffs for the third consecutive year, the injury-plagued Los Angeles Lakers—who finished the last ten games of the regular season at a dismal 4-6 win/loss record—have more than enough reason to be concerned going into the 2010 NBA Playoffs.
Although he has stated that he will return from injury in the Lakers’ playoff opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Lakers may be forced to begin the 2010 NBA Playoffs without the availability of center Andrew Bynum due to a strained Achilles tendon suffered on March 19 against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Staples Center. With the Lakers regular season record standing at 38-12 with a healthy combo of Bynum and forward/center Pau Gasol versus a 19-13 record with one or both injured (Mike Trudell, Lakers.com BasketBlog), it is no secret that the Lakers’ success depends very heavily on the health of their front court.
Another injury which may prove to be even more troubling for the Lakers in the 2010 NBA Playoffs is that to the right index finger of Kobe Bryant, which has remained a source of concern for the Lakers throughout much of the regular season. Prior to suffering an avulsion fracture in his right index finger during the regular season, Bryant’s shot percentage was four percentage points higher; his scoring average three points per game higher than the time of the injury—after which Bryant began playing with a splint on his finger. This will be critical for the Lakers—for whom it can easily be argued that the difference maker in finishing two games ahead of Dallas to earn the top seed in the Western Conference was a number of decisive clutch shots from Bryant.