Lakers guard Kobe Bryant tries to protect the ball from the long reach of… (Paul Buck / EPA )
The realities of a lockout-shortened season will confront the Lakers one last time.
They have been playing back-to-back games for months, but the playoffs aren't exactly the best time to endure a second game in a 48-hour span.
Particularly when your opponent is the Oklahoma City Thunder, whose starters have an average age of 24.6.
The average age of the Lakers' starters? A relatively geriatric 29.2.
The Lakers have no choice but to slog through the second game of a back-to-back situation Saturday night at Staples Center in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals.
"Obviously, the younger you are, you probably can recoup a little bit better," Lakers Coach Mike Brown said Friday. "But it is what it is. We have to be ready to play [Friday] first and then worry about that second game afterward."
Brown said he would not divvy up his minutes differently to conserve players' energy for Game 4, saying he was "playing to win" Friday's game.
The Lakers have had middling success in the second game of back-to-back situations this season, going 9-9. But they don't plan to alter their approach for Game 4.
"Fighting for what we're fighting for, it's one of those things where you just have to be ready to go," point guard Ramon Sessions said. "If you have to play 45 minutes each night, you just have to be ready to go. There's no looking back right now."
The Lakers are developing a reputation as good guys off the court.
Pau Gasol became the second consecutive Laker to be voted the NBA's top citizen, winning the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award as selected by the Professional Basketball Writers Assn.
Named for the former NBA commissioner, the award recognizes an NBA player, coach or trainer for outstanding service and dedication to the community. Metta World Peace was the winner in 2011.
Gasol has spent the last seven years as an ambassador for UNICEF, traveling extensively to promote programs focusing on nutrition and education for children. He has also made numerous hospital visits to raise the spirits of children and their families.
"I think it's always great to have a higher purpose than yourself," Gasol said, "and when you have an opportunity to have a positive impact on somebody else's life, especially when there are kids involved, it's worth all the dedication you can put in."
Other finalists were Atlanta's Josh Smith, Dallas' Jason Terry and Orlando's J.J. Redick.
Blake reports threats
Steve Blake said he reported death threats his wife received via Twitter to Lakers security personnel, who had an increased presence during Game 3 at Staples Center.
"We took what we feel are appropriate measures," team spokesman John Black said.
Blake's family was threatened after the shooting guard missed a potential go-ahead three-pointer with 3.9 seconds left in Game 2, a two-point Lakers loss. Brown teared up when asked about the threats before Game 3, calling them "a doggone shame."
"That gets me emotional right now," Brown said. "I just feel bad for his family, I feel bad for him. That shouldn't be a part of life, to have somebody want to do stuff like that or attack your family, your kids. I don't like that."
Blake's wife, Kristen, tweeted her gratitude Friday to those who have supported the couple.
"I am deeply grateful & humbled by the outpouring of love, support, & most of all prayers for our family in light of recent events-THANK YOU!" she tweeted.