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Dead Team Walking?

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The Lakers head into a must win game tonight in Phoenix (7:30 on KCAL 9 or TNT) with many fans and pundits thinking this is more a nationally televised execution than a playoff game. Look at the reports from yesterday’s Laker practice and the same feeling seems to have washed over the team.

Not to worry though Laker fans, you’ve got Phil Jackson’s amazing motivational tools: “I did tell them that they had the brainpower of slugs or earthworms.”

Okay, so maybe things are pretty grim. Phil really did say that after practice yesterday. Still, the Lakers have a plan for beating the Suns -- aggressive defense on the pick-and-roll and pound it inside on offense to soften up the smaller team -- and when they executed it properly for three quarters they got a win.

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But “consistent execution” and “Lakers” are not words that should be in the same sentence this season. (Damn, I just did it.) Putting together one entire good game -- 48 minutes of committed basketball -- seems to be asking a lot. Doing it for three games in a row, the task now ahead of this team, looks like Everest.

That’s why many Laker fans, and the smart pundits, have started looking ahead. Asking the “what’s next?” question before they are even eliminated from the playoffs. We’re not going to do that. We’re not going to get into potential shakeups of the roster until this team is officially eliminated.

So, check back tomorrow.

AP photo by Mark J. Terrill