Did Lakers ‘Conspire’ to Meet Thunder in the Playoffs?

by April 13, 2010
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The Lakers/Thunder first round Playoff series became a reality last night in Portland, but after the strange ending to their game against the Blazers on Sunday, the Daily News wonders if that’s what L.A. wanted all along: “If you’re the Lakers, wouldn’t you rather face the inexperienced Oklahoma City Thunder than the Blazers or the San Antonio Spurs? Beating Portland Sunday would have all but ensured a Lakers-Blazers matchup. Let’s review. Kobe Bryant shanks two free throws. Derek Fisher bricks one of two. Bryant makes 81 percent and Fisher 85 percent. So that’s plenty weird, right? Then Fisher sticks out a mitt and fouls Martel Webster, who is trying some ridiculous off-one-foot 3-pointer with time running out. Why not let him shoot that mess, right? Webster hits all three free throws to give the Blazers a 91-88 lead. During the ensuing 20-second timeout, Lakers coach Phil Jackson designs a play for Pau Gasol to take a 3-pointer from straight away. This is the same Pau Gasol who is 0-for-4 on 3s this season. The same Pau Gasol who admitted he doesn’t even practice 3s. The same Pau Gasol, who usually catches the inbounds pass from Lamar Odom or Ron Artest and feeds a crisp pass to Bryant for the winning jump shot at the buzzer. Gasol missed his shot a bit long and the Lakers fall to the Blazers, who now have a terrific chance to move up and avoid the Lakers in the opening round of the playoffs. So, am I wrong to raise an eyebrow at the endgame Sunday? You tell me.”