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End is near for battered Lakers

SooBum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Take a look at images of the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2013 NBA playoffs. VIEW GALLERY»
LOS ANGELES – One of the strangest seasons in Lakers history is teetering on closure.
And maybe that’s a good thing.

In a season filled with injuries to star players (Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Metta World Peace, Steve Blake), drama (Dwight Howard, Jordan Hill), trade rumors (Pau Gasol) and a coaching change following a 1-4 start (Mike Brown to Mike D’Antoni), the Lakers are on their last legs -- literally.

Forced to start the NBA Development League’s Most Valuable Player at point guard, the Lakers now sit one game from playoff elimination following a 120-89 blowout loss to the Spurs in Game 3 of their first-round series on Friday night.

“Times are tough right now,” said a frustrated D’Antoni, who bolted his postgame news conference after barely two minutes.

But Pau Gasol (11 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists) says there is still fight in the Lakers.
“I guess we will see on Sunday,” said Gasol of Sunday’s Game 4. “Whatever we have left, leave it on the floor … no matter what we go through.

“We’ve been murdered by injures, it’s tough to overcome that.”

While Blake and Nash watched from the bench in street clothes, and Bryant took in the action from somewhere within Staples Center, the Lakers limped their way up and down the court and had no answer for Tim Duncan (26 points, nine rebounds) Tony Parker (20 points, seven assists) and San Antonio’s bevy of clutch shooters (61.2 percent from the field).

“Tim is still the foundation of our program,” said coach Gregg Popovich of Duncan, who turned 37 on Thursday. “He’s really a miracle in my mind.

“We know that everything we do in this series starts with post defense and rebounding the basketball. We’re doing the best they can against Dwight and Pau. They are wearing us down.”

It wasn’t all bad for the home team – at least famous super-fan Lou Adler got a loud ovation when honored for his recent induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Andrew Goudelock, given his D-League MVP trophy shortly before tip-off, was the lone bright spot for Los Angeles after scoring 20 points in his first-ever NBA start.

With their “backs up against the wall” according to Gasol, the Lakers will get no mercy from the Spurs.

“We not trying to give them get any momentum whatsoever,” Duncan said. “We tried to play 48 (minutes), and play it the right way.”

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