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Lakers 102, Spurs 93: Bynum Injured, All Eyes Turn To Wednesday's MRI

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Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls: welcome to Bynum Watch 2011. This has become a beloved rite of spring here in Lakerdom. You can mark its annual beginning by the appearance in the same sentence of such words as "knee buckled awkwardly," "possible hyperextension," "went to the locker room with trainer Gary Vitti" and "MRI pending." Oh, you didn't think we'd make it all the way to the playoffs without a Bynum injury scare, did you? That's just not how things are done around here.

In case you missed it and are wondering what the wave of concern sweeping through Laker fans is all about: in the second quarter of tonight's depressing home win over the San Antonio Spurs' practice squad, Drew's right foot landed on the foot of DeJuan Blair, causing his knee to lock up and hyperextend a bit. After spending a few moments on the ground, Drew went to the locker room under his own power but did not return. Video of the injury is after the jump.

The Lakers' final regular-season game is in Sacramento tomorrow night, but Drew won't make the trip. He'll have an MRI in the morning to determine his status. For what it's worth, Drew did tell Mike Trudell after tonight's game, "I'll be able to play. I'll be all right. It's a setback." He also told Mike that although his knee was sore, it looked worse than it actually is. I wouldn't treat these statements as conclusive - as Phil Jackson said after the game, there won't be any certainty until the MRI results come in and the team can observe how the injury progresses - but "I'll be able to play" and "I'll be all right" is clearly more encouraging than "PAIN IS EXCRUCIATING PLZ TO GIVE MORPHINE!!1!"

Even aside from Drew's injury, the game itself was a joyless spectacle. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich didn't bother to put Tim Duncan, Tony Parker or Manu Ginobili on the court. Part of his motivation may have been to ensure a Laker victory and minimize the likelihood that the champs would finish fourth in the West and on the Spurs' side of the postseason bracket. If so, the Lakers for much of the night seemed determined to foil his strategy. They competed with hardly any more intensity or intelligence than during their five-game losing streak. The San Antonio scrubs kept it close until the last four minutes or so, when an 11 to 0 Laker run put them out of their misery and us out of ours.

Kobe Bryant (27 points) and Lamar Odom (23 points) handled much of the scoring. Pau Gasol (17 boards) handled the rebounding. Luke Walton (2 points and 2 turnovers in 17 minutes played) handled the making us fervently hope that Matt Barnes's injured knee feels better very, very soon. Barnes was an unexpected scratch tonight along with Steve Blake, who somehow has chicken pox. Is Blake's chicken pox the result of an al Qaeda bioterror attack? Most definitely. It all adds up when you stop to think about it.

Whatever's the opposite of a "statement win," that's what this was. But it does pull the Lakers up to 56-25, same as the Dallas Mavericks. The Lakers hold the tiebreaker over the Mavs, so they can lock up the second seed in the West with either a victory tomorrow or a Mavs loss to the Hornets. As for who the Lakers might face in the first round, all we know is that the Trail Blazers will be the sixth seed. The Hornets will finish seventh if they win in Dallas or the Grizzlies lose to the Clippers tomorrow night. If the Hornets lose and the Grizzlies win, Memphis will finish seventh and New Orleans eighth.

All that is of trivial importance next to Bynum's health. The Lakers can probably get by without him for one round. After that, things get pretty sticky. He's the anchor of the interior defense and the one guy that can impose a no-fly zone within six feet of the rim. He's the Lakers' chief intimidator and the guy least reluctant to hand out a "playoff foul." He gives them muscle on the glass and scoring in the post. And without him, Odom moves into the starting lineup, which further depletes a Laker bench that hasn't inspired much confidence lately.

Of course, there's a range of outcomes here that fall between "out for the entire playoffs" and "total false alarm." It's possible, perhaps even probable, that Drew will be available to go but without his usual explosiveness. That's basically the Drew the Lakers have had in the playoffs the last two seasons. It's better than nothing but worse than what we'd expected until tonight.










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