Magic Johnson gives up on Lakers after injuries to Steve Nash, Steve Blake, Jodie Meeks

Already missing leading scorer Kobe Bryant and mired in an 0-2 deficit, the Los Angeles Lakers could be without their other three top guards for Game 3 against the San Antonio Spurs at Staples Center on Friday. And that, apparently, has convinced Magic Johnson to abandon all hope of a forum-blue-and-gold miracle.

The Lakers announced Thursday that an ultrasound confirmed a strained right hamstring for Steve Blake, a point guard by trade who started at shooting guard after starter Steve Nash's return for Game 1. The team also announced that Nash — the 39-year-old point guard who has gritted his way through hip, hamstring and back injuries for the last two games, but has looked like a shell of his former self in doing so — received two epidural injections in his back and a cortisone shot in his right hip Thursday, and that shooting guard Jodie Meeks would undergo an MRI on the sprained left ankle that kept him out of Game 2. Both Nash and Meeks are listed as doubtful for Game 3, while Blake has been ruled out indefinitely.

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Moments after the announcements, legendary Hall of Fame point guard Johnson handed down his official proclamation that the Lakers are D-U-N done:

Hey, come on, Magic, quit sugar-coating it. I'm having a really hard time reading between the lines to figure out what you really think about the Lakers' chances of coming back in this series.

Oh. OK, then.


He then promptly changed the subject:

... which I found pretty funny, but probably wasn't as amusing to Lakers fans.

While Magic's pronouncement of the Lakers as dead in the water might seem rash to some before they play Games 3 and 4 at home, the reality of the situation is that L.A. was finished for all intents and purposes once Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili showed up for Game 1 looking healthier and better than they'd looked before the end of the season. And, if we're getting really real, they were probably finished before that, and probably even before Bryant tore his left Achilles tendon.


Despite boasting four Hall-of-Fame-caliber stars, this Lakers team never once really looked like even the sum of its parts, has looked lost on defense (especially on the perimeter and in transition) virtually the entire season, and has fielded a bench that's been mediocre and best and awful at worst. Pounding the paint and relying on scoring explosions from Blake might be enough to post one win over a Spurs team that had already locked up home-court advantage in the first round and played with no Ginobili, a terrible Parker and a subpar Kawhi Leonard, but it was never going to be enough to win four times in seven tries against a rested Spurs team with healthier, better versions of those guys, regardless of which injuries the Lakers suffered during the course of the first-round series.

That said, Johnson's not wrong to note that the loss of Blake and the potential loss of Nash and Meeks — the team's two primary ball-handlers and three reliable long-range shooters — is absolutely killer for a Lakers team that's found it difficult to make much hay with its low-post tandem of Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol because the Spurs haven't had to really respect L.A.'s spacing and ability to make San Antonio pay from downtown. In Game 1, the Lakers went 3 for 15 from 3-point range; in Game 2, they failed to inspire enough fear to keep San Antonio from digging down hard on post-ups despite shooting much better (8 for 22) from the perimeter. Losing the playmaking, ball-movement and long-distance accuracy of Blake, Nash and Meeks would only exacerbate that problem, turning a series that we all picked to end in five or six into one that could very well end in a clean sweep.

And yet, according to USA TODAY Sports' Sam Amick, Howard refused to be cowed by the long odds of a comeback, even after this most recent spate of injuries:

"We're not going to go down," Howard defiantly told USA TODAY Sports. "We're going to fight. There's no (mentality of) 'we're going to go down fighting.' We're going to fight. We're going to keep fighting. We've got a lot of bodies, some strong players, so we're just going to keep fighting.

"I want to win, you know what I'm saying? It seems like everything is not going our way, but I'm going to fight through it. I'm a fighter. I'm not going to quit on these guys. I'm going to show them that they can ride my back. It's not over. It's only two games. You've got to win four."

That's true, Dwight. But winning four when you're staring down the barrel of a Darius Morris-Andrew Goudelock-Chris Duhon guard rotation is a pretty tall order, dude. Just ask Magic. He'll tell you.