Lakers hoping to regroup for Spurs
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Lakers went back to work Monday looking to hit the reset button on a season that suddenly started to run off the rails.
"We had a bad week," said Lakers head coach Phil Jackson. "We had a really bad week. Sunday to Sunday was kind of bad."
Their season-high, five-game losing streak is the longest skid for the franchise since March 2007, when they lost seven in a row.
But this isn't Jackson's first rodeo dealing with a late-season swoon and getting his team to bounce back for a championship run.
Last year the Lakers lost seven of their final 11 games headed into the playoffs and went on to beat Celtics in Game 7. In 1992-93, Jackson's Chicago Bulls, who were also going for a three-peat like this year's Lakers, lost three of their final five games in the regular season yet still went on to win the title.
"It's the product of having played a ton of games and being at a championship level for two years and knowing really what the goal is that second season and there's some subliminal part of them that's just still giving in to, 'We have to save it for the best, which is later on, and go from there,'" Jackson said. "At their age, it's understandable."
Kobe Bryant said this season's late slide pales in comparison to what the team went through at the end of the 2009-10 season.
"Last year we didn't know what the hell was going on," Bryant said. "We had a lot of injuries. My knee needed to be operated on. There were a lot of question marks. Here, we don't really have any question marks. You don't really see anybody here feeling like there's doom and gloom because these are problems that can be corrected and will be corrected.
"Everybody wants to put the nail in the coffin. We've been there before. So, it doesn't bother us."
More on the Lakers
For more news, notes and analysis of the Lakers, check out the Lakers Index. Blog
Lakers legend and team executive Magic Johnson added to the doom and gloom Monday with his Twitter account, warning, "OKC, [Kevin] Durant, and [Russell] Westbrook are for real and could prove problematic for the Lakers in the playoffs if they aren't playing their best ball," before later tweeting that this year's Lakers team reminds him of his 1987-88 squad that lasted three seven-game series in the postseason before winning the title.
"Get ready for a tough playoff run," Johnson wrote.
The team spent Monday's practice working on defensive rotations after allowing Oklahoma City to score 120 points and shoot 55.6 percent in its win Sunday.
"Paying attention to details," Pau Gasol said.
"Breaking down bad habits," Jackson added.
Bryant and Andrew Bynum called for more practice after the Thunder loss to work on the team's connectivity on offense, but a full-court scrimmage wasn't possible Monday.
Steve Blake was out with a fever. Matt Barnes was sidelined with irritation in his right knee. Rookies Devin Ebanks (right tibia) and Derrick Caracter (on assignment with the D-League's Bakersfield Jam) were not available either and Jackson said he wanted to give Gasol, Bryant and Derek Fisher rest in advance of their back-to-back against San Antonio and Sacramento on Tuesday and Wednesday.
"The rest of the guys really need [the practice], but that only leaves eight or seven guys to play," Jackson said.
Jackson suspects the Spurs will be similarly undermanned Tuesday, but it will be by design rather than because of injury.
"I'd be surprised if they did," Jackson said when asked if he expected San Antonio to play "full tilt" on Tuesday with the No. 1 seed in the West already secured. "Knowing [Gregg] Popovich, I think he'll play everybody. They'll stay in rhythm and everything. I don't know if they'll play full tilt, but the guys that play will play hard and they have a deep team. They have a deeper team than we do. So, it's going to take something from us to play at that level and then finish off the season the next night in Sacramento."
Said Bryant of the Spurs game: "It's a game that's right in front of us and it's a game that we want to win and need to win. So, we're going to play."
The Lakers at 55-25 are currently tied with Dallas for the No. 2 seed, but hold both of the first two tiebreakers by virtue of winning the Pacific Division and taking the season series 2-1. The Mavericks end the season with games Monday at Houston and Wednesday against New Orleans.
Still, there was a level of optimism expressed by the Lakers with the postseason right around the corner.
"There's nothing we can do about it except play better [on Tuesday]," Jackson said. "I told these guys that we played better for 42-44 minutes [Sunday], something like that. So, that's a good sign. We have signs that we're starting to recover. The ailing patient is starting to recover."
Added Gasol: "I like our intensity. I like our effort, our will. That's the thing that needs to stay consistent and we'll be fine."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Beto Duran of 710 ESPN contributed to this report.