We knew that probable issues existed, but we chose to ignore them. We sat blinded in the purple-and-gold glow of last year's championship, while very serious concerns receded to the depths of our minds.
Los Angeles was atrocious on both sides of the ball, as the offense couldn't find any kind of rhythm, and the defense looked flat-footed and slow.
The offense can be considered an anomaly, because the Lakers are one of the best offensive teams in the league, who happened to suffer from a rare off night. That type of thing happens sometimes.
The defense is far more troubling, because the Lakers have the tendency to go through these lulls, and they're almost impossible to explain.
By all means, the Lakers should have one of the best defensive teams in the NBA. They have length, quickness, lateral movement, are fundamentally sound, and have good technique.
They have the potential to be phenomenal. The thing about potential is that it is energy that is not realized. To attain potential, the energy has to become kinetic, or energy in motion, and the Lakers are stuck in an absolute stand-still.
This lapse in defense is not new to the Lakers, because they have been dogged by periods of inconsistency before, but the manner in which they were beaten at home is inexcusable.
The defense is usually good for a few instances of dominance in a game, but last night that attribute was noticeably missing. It was replaced by total ineptitude, by a bunch of guys masquerading around in Laker uniforms.
There was Lamar Odom, who is usually a decent defensive player, getting repeatedly beaten off the dribble, and there was Ron Artest, as dependable as they come, looking uninterested as he continuously failed to slide his feet and was reduced to reaching.
And of course the entire stable of Laker guards reverted to their familiar ways of getting abused on the perimeter by any Maverick who decided to venture into the lane.
The reason that the Lakers could be so good on defense is because they excel in the help areas of the defensive scheme, but not on this night as Andrew Bynum was frequently caught out of position, and left looking dazed and confused.
Kobe Bryant was the only Laker, other than Shannon Brown who showed any intensity on the defensive end, and he was marred in a bad shooting night.
If Kobe can't get his points and the defense is horrible, that is always going to spell trouble for the Lake Show. The return of Pau Gasol will ease some of the troubles, but that will be more on the offensive end.
His return will prevent the offense from becoming stagnant, as it did numerous times against the Mavs. He recognizes the need to be fluid in the paint and to keep the ball moving at all times.
He is an underrated defender, but the Lakers' terrible perimeter defense would leave him in the same quandary as last evening, namely trying to recover at the basket for guards who offer matador defense.
The Lakers' defensive woes are not due to the absence of a player, other than Gasol, and he won't count for that big of an improvement when he returns.
The Lakers's problems are caused from a lack of commitment on the defensive side of the floor, and for Laker fans, that is a maddening prospect.
They are the defending champions, and they possess all the defensive potential in the world. The tricky thing about potential is that if you never reach it, then it lies dormant and wasted, much like the Lakers were last night.