Why the Los Angeles Lakers' Internal Demons Are Their Own Worst Enemy

Ryan Ori AsherContributor IIMarch 30, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 29:  Metta World Peace #15 of the Los Angeles Lakers dribbles as he fends off James Harden #13 of the Oklahoma City Thunder at Staples Center on March 29, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

After watching the entire Lakers-Thunders game, I am seething mad, but not for the reasons you may think.

I am furious because the Lakers have just shown me that they should be the top team in the league.

In the first half, their defensive intensity and focus was incredible. They ran the offense with precision and purpose. Bynum was dominating Perkins, Gasol was dominating Ibaka, and Ron Artest was making Kevin Durant's life a living hell.

But in the second half, everything changed.

What happened to the effort? What happened to the intensity? What happened to the focus?

Gasol received two phantom fouls within the first two minutes, but that is no excuse for how lazy he was boxing out once he returned. Steve Blake, Josh McRoberts, and Pau Gasol all allowed Russell Westbrook to torch the Lakers by constantly hedging on the wrong side of the screen, giving him open jump shots. The second unit ran the offense, but went through the motions, putting very little purpose in their sets. Completely different from the first half.

All of the Lakers' bigs, including Bynum, were lazy on the rebounds during the third quarter, allowing Oklahoma City to torch them with second-chance points. They lost every fight for loose balls. They were out-muscled, out hustled, and outclassed.

Were the Thunder the better team tonight? Yes

Are the Thunder a better team than the Lakers? Yes

Should the Lakers be a better team than the Thunder? YES

The Lakers are impossible to beat when they play with the focus and determination that defined the first half. Yes, I'm including the Thunder, Heat, Bulls, and any other team in the NBA. When the Lakers play how they did in the first half, there is not a single team that can match them.

And for some reason, the Lakers seem incapable of maintaining that focus, and it is infuriating!

What will it take for the Lakers to rediscover their fire?

Is it a new coach? A new scheme? A new mindset? Whatever it is, they must figure it out soon, or they will continue losing games, not just to the elite teams, but teams that have no business beating them.

It's sad, to see a team with so much promise fail like this