The Los Angeles Lakers just can't take a trick right now.
Dominated by problems on and off the court throughout the past few weeks, the Lakers headed to Miami to try and contain the streaking Heat but also attempt to resurrect their somewhat sputtering season.
All they got was a 107-97 loss and a red-hot LeBron James, who notched up his fifth-straight 30-point game, setting a franchise record in the process.
It was not quite what LA had in mind coming into this one.
There was the quip that the All-Star center shot to his teammate Kobe Bryant after the star-guard had told him to play through his current injury. Howard's line of "Kobe's not a doctor" didn't seem to go down too well with those looking to try and build team chemistry this week ahead of their big game.
Throw in a huge injury to forward Pau Gasol which will see the giant miss around six to eight weeks, and it really wasn't a good couple of days for the Lakers.
Yet for all the talk of trade rumors, team chemistry and All-Star players, what had underpinned the hope of many Lakers fans was the knowledge that this team would be good enough to win basketball games when they started to all get along.
The assumption that their current form was being determined by what was taking place off the court was the light at the end of the tunnel for many, who no doubt held fast to the fact that they would be better once Kobe and Dwight started clicking.
Yet against Miami, that light just went off.
The hope that their form was being determined by old, off-court issues, was suddenly replaced by the knowledge that this team simply isn't good enough.
There weren't any chemistry issues here, there wasn't any in-fighting.
The reason LA went down to the Miami Heat was because the Heat are very, very good at basketball and, at the moment, the Lakers are not.
In the 10-point loss, the Lakers still shot 50 percent from the field. All bar Metta World Peace reached double figures in points—Howard and Steve Nash both had 15. Kobe even had 28 points and nine assists yet the Lakers fell comfortably to the Heat in the end.
Why? Because the Heat were simply the better team. They were more clinical down the stretch and more efficient when the ball was in their hands.
Tied at halftime and a five-point game at three-quarter time, it was the Lakers' eight turnovers in the final quarter that cost them the win—not anything to do with trade rumors. The fact that they turned the ball over eight times and Miami didn't turn it over once in the fourth was the difference here.
The fact that Miami shot 92.9 percent from the line whereas the Lakers shot just 76.9 percent was the difference. The fact they out-rebounded, out-passed, out-scored and out-lasted LA was the reason they won this game and the Lakers need to take that away from this game.
They need not to walk away with the continued thoughts of a "better" team once Kobe and Dwight stop whinging about the other. They need not to walk away with the hope that if they just leave everything and try to smooth it all out, then things will finally start to turn around.
The Los Angeles Lakers and their fans need to recognize that they were showed up by a better Heat team because they were just that—better.
Not nicer to each other. Just better.
They were more disciplined, more skillful and more efficient.
Lakers guard Steve Nash said after the game (per ESPN):
We had our chances, but we weren't good enough tonight. We had too many breakdowns and we had opportunities to stretch the lead at times in the game and we couldn't do that either so probably in the end we didn't deserve it.
At least someone has some common sense about the Lakers at the moment.
Kobe was fine, Dwight was fine—heck, they were even fine together on the court and showed glimpses of the potential they had promised all along.
It wasn't their old problems that haunted them here but some new ones; ones that showed they just aren't quite good as they'd promised in 2013.
Maybe the All-Star break is just what the doctor ordered at the moment.
A real doctor that is.
What do you make of the Los Angeles Lakers at the moment?
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