By Ben Golliver
The leading projection systems give the Lakers less than a one percent chance to win the NBA Finals, but that hasn't stopped the team from incorporating a "Championship!" cheer when it breaks from huddles.
The audacity of those Larry O'Brien trophy dreams for an eighth seed has been fuel for Lakers detractors and, now, coach Mike D'Antoni, who slammed his team after its 103-100 home loss to the Wizards on Friday night.
The Kamenetzky Brothers report that D'Antoni unloaded on the Lakers' lack of mental focus after they blew an 18-point second-half lead to hand the 25-43 Wizards just their seventh road win.
"If we don't change [the focus and effort], well, obviously we won't make the playoffs. But even if we do, then we'll get blown out in the playoffs. You can't be a fairly good team without passing the basketball and without understanding what we're doing defensively and honing in and doing it. You can't do it. You can't do it. It's impossible."
"This is a good team that just for whatever can't collectively, mentally, get stimulated to do it every time. And I told them in [the locker room], we put our hands in [the huddle[, and you've guys have probably seen it, we say 'Championship!' and go out there. And that's laughable. Championship? You gotta be kidding me.
"Until they understand the importance of every possession offensively and defensively, and every time, they gotta come out with some kind of determination to be a good basketball team, then we're just fooling ourselves. And right now, that's what we're doing. We're making sham-mockery of it, or whatever that is."
D'Antoni took over in November from interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff, who stepped in after the Lakers fired Mike Brown after just five games. The Lakers are now 31-29 under D'Antoni and 36-34 on the season. L.A. maintained its 1½-game lead over the Jazz for the No. 8 seed in the playoffs because Utah lost to San Antonio on Friday. The Lakers have 12 games remaining.
Basketball-Reference's forecast now gives the Lakers a 65.2 percent chance of making the playoffs, a 0.7 percent chance of advancing to the Finals and a 0.3 percent chance of winning the title. ESPN.com's playoff odds give the Lakers a 51.6 percent chance of making the playoffs, a 0.4 percent change of advancing to the Finals and no chance of winning the title. The Lakers won the title in 2009 and 2010 but failed to advance out of the Western Conference semifinals the last two seasons.
Friday's good news for the Lakers: Kobe Bryant (ankle) and Pau Gasol (foot) returned from injuries. Bryant finished with 21 points (on 8-for-18 shooting), 11 assists, four rebounds and two steals in 38 minutes. Bryant had two chances to tie the game in the final five seconds but couldn't connect, although he did hit a three-pointer with two seconds left to extend the action. Gasol added four points (on 2-for-1o shooting), eight rebounds and one assist in 20 minutes.John Wall