LOS ANGELES — Coming into Sunday’s Game 4 against the Spurs and dealing with a mountain of injuries that has finally become insurmountable, the only thing left for the Lakers, who were just a single game from this season being brought to its merciful conclusion, was to see whether or not the team would come out with any fight.
“Let’s get people to talk about us, in the sense of, let’s win here and let’s go,” Mike D’Antoni said before the game, when asked what he told his players. “Let’s try to make a miracle. Why not? So they have that mindset, and I think they’ll give it everything they’ve got.”
The sad thing is, the effort the Lakers gave that resulted in a 103-82 destruction at the hands of the Spurs might have been just that — at least for the players that actually gave anything resembling an effort level appropriate for a playoff game, especially one that was more than likely to be the last of the season.
The cliche of playing with nothing to lose couldn’t have been more applicable to the dilapidated state of these Lakers, who are missing Steve Nash, Steve Blake, Jodie Meeks, Metta World Peace, and of course, Kobe Bryant, all due to injury.
But while Pau Gasol put in a solid effort, and though Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock did what they could under the circumstances, the other two Lakers starters seemed to mail this game in from the very start.
Earl Clark didn’t arrive at Staples Center until about an hour before the game, which is much later than the customary minimum reporting time most teams have in place of 90 minutes before tip-off. He played like he was still warming up during the first quarter, where he had several defensive lapses and looked completely out of sync.
Dwight Howard decided just after halftime that he didn’t want to stick around for what was left of the season, picking up his second technical foul which got him ejected with 9:51 remaining in the third and with the Spurs leading by 21 points.
The only bright spot for the fans in attendance at Staples Center on Sunday afternoon came a few minutes after Howard went to the locker room, when Kobe Bryant came out of the tunnel on crutches to join what was left of his team by taking a seat behind the Lakers bench.
Bryant received a standing ovation and the loudest cheers of the afternoon, even as the game was going on and Tony Parker hit a jumper to push the Spurs lead to 60-39.
The game’s ultimate result was expected by anyone who’s been paying attention, but all the home crowd was looking for was a little fight out of what was left of their injury-ravaged team for one last time.
Instead, at the end of a season full of disappointments, all that was left was to add the Lakers’ Game 4 no-show to that very long list.