Los Angeles Lakers: Still Disappointing Despite Dwight Howard's Ejection

Michael LingbergCorrespondent IIIJanuary 20, 2013

HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 08:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks up to the scoreboard during their game against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center on January 8, 2013 in Houston, Texas.  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 Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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Even without one of the best centers in the NBA, the Los Angeles Lakers were expected to take care of business against the lowly Toronto Raptors on Sunday.

But can we really expect anything from the Lakers after what we've seen this season?

The Raptors came away victorious with a 108-103 home win against the Lakers, and were boosted thanks to Dwight Howard's ejection in the first half after a couple technical fouls. Even if he didn't get thrown out, would he have made a difference? In 17 minutes, he scored just five points and grabbed two rebounds. So he wasn't exactly dominating.

In his absence, Kobe Bryant was forced to shoulder the load once again. But he was super inefficient, as it took 32 shots to score just 26 points. That performance is the something we haven't often seen from him this season.

But there was a rare Pau Gasol sighting during the game. He was vintage. Unlike with Bryant, it took Gasol just 15 shots to score 25 points. If he played like that more often, the Lakers surely wouldn't be a sub-.500 basketball team.

This loss drops the Lakers to 17-22, good enough for 11th in the Western Conference. They are currently struggling for the eighth playoff spot along with the Houston Rockets, Minnesota Timberwolves, Dallas Mavericks and Portland Trail Blazers.

For a team that was picked by many in the preseason to win the NBA championship, it is failing spectacularly. Howard, Gasol and Bryant haven't exactly fit together and head coach Mike D'Antoni has so far been unable to work the same magic as he did with the Phoenix Suns.

If there's one thing for sure, this is not the way anyone wants to see future Hall of Famer Steve Nash's career end. He deserves much more than this chaotically disappointing disaster.