The Los Angeles Lakers blew a 13-point fourth-quarter lead and fell to the Phoenix Suns 92-86, a loss that snapped L.A.'s three-game winning streak. To make matters worse, Dwight Howard suffered another shoulder injury and had to leave the game during Phoenix's fourth-quarter rally.
Los Angeles struggled all game long with ball security, racking up 19 turnovers.
The Lakers shot poorly, just over 42 percent from the floor and under 30 percent from the three-point line. That was mostly thanks to a rough night from Metta World Peace, a rare inefficient night from Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant's poor shooting down the stretch.
Can't blame Kobe now. Metta can't buy a shot, Steve Nash can't run the offense, Dwight can't stop getting injured, Pau can't stop crying.— Not Bill Walton (@NotBillWalton) January 31, 2013
While they did lose their winning streak, they did see another streak continue involving their road woes.
Lakers blow 13-point 4th quarter lead vs. Suns to lose 8th straight road game, 92-86.
— Beyond The Buzzer(@BeyondTheBuzzer) January 31, 2013
This loss stings a little more because it is the first of a seven-game road trip that will keep the Lakers away from home until mid-February.
The fourth-quarter collapse was already under way when Howard was injured, but it jumped into overdrive with the center out of the game.
It was an absolute Greek tragedy for the Lakers in the fourth. Nothing went right. Absolute dumpster fire.— Lakers Nation (@LakersNation) January 31, 2013
Suns finished the game on a 19-8 run after Dwight Howard got hurt.— Zach Harper (@talkhoops) January 31, 2013
It seems like the most obvious thought a logical person can have, but the Lakers desperately need Howard when things start to fall apart. He's there to grab rebounds, and as the team's best defensive player, he's capable of stopping a run with a single play.
Howard has left a game with a shoulder injury three times this season, once against the Clippers when he initially tore his labrum, keeping him out for a few games, and then a week ago against the Memphis Grizzlies, which kept him out for the second half.
If this injury turns out to be recurring, it could end up seriously affecting the Lakers.
Dwight Howard is playing with a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Surgery would sideline him six months.— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) January 31, 2013
Although it seems that for now, he's going to be day-to-day.
D'Antoni on Dwight's shoulder: "My understanding is, it hurts, it'll go away in a couple of days and he can play."— Ken Berger (@KBergCBS) January 31, 2013
While we can prattle on about Howard having a down year, it's impossible to argue that he's not wildly important for the Lakers.
His defense speaks for itself, but his offense is just as important to the team. Howard gives the Lakers another weapon to make shots when Kobe gets the passing bug.
The best way to keep the passing bug in Kobe, and keep as many players involved in the offense as possible, is to keep him confident in the rest of his team, which Kobe obviously wasn't down the stretch against the Suns.
An injured Howard is definitely a blow to Los Angeles' chances of making the playoffs, and if it keeps popping up like this, which is looking increasingly likely, then the Lakers are going to be in for a rough final few months of the season.