Pivot Points: Lakers, Celtics Facing Questions in Wake of Two-Game Skids

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Pivot Points: Lakers, Celtics Facing Questions in Wake of Two-Game Skids
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

For two teams that are supposed to be the NBA favorites, the past two games have left the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers looking pretty ordinary.

In Boston, the home loss to the Atlanta Hawks can be pretty much summed up by a lack of rebounding on both ends. The younger, more athletic Hawks just beat up the Celtics on the boards.

The mystery lies in this question: How do the long, experienced Celtics allow themselves to be out-rebounded on their home floor? Good thing they didn't have to search long to find the answer.

It basically boiled down to a lack of attention to basic fundamentals, namely blocking out opponents when the ball was in the air. Coach Doc Rivers basically said as much as he watched his players continuously beaten to the ball by the quicker Hawks.

Although Boston had a discernible height advantage, the obvious difference in athleticism was staggering. It could have been nullified by fundamentals, but the Celtics often found themselves reacting to the Hawks instead of blocking out.

Against the Indiana Pacers the Celtics did a better job on the boards but still found themselves on the losing end.

This is not as perplexing as it may sound because the Pacers are known to bring their best effort against the better teams in the league.

Danny Granger, who led the Pacers with 25 points, looked like he was a step ahead of the exhausted Boston defense the entire evening, and when the game was on the line the Celtics didn't have the energy to come up with stops.

The Celtcs were able to correct their rebounding problem and a little rest should help out their tired bones. In Los Angeles, the Lakers find themselves in a place that they didn't see until December 9 of last year.

Coming off a blowout loss in Denver, the Lakers hoped to find a little relief in the comforts of home but the scrappy Houston Rockets had other ideas.

In a night which saw former Laker Trevor Ariza receive his championship ring, it was the Rockets who looked the part of defending champions while the Lakers just struggled to stay in the game.

A familiar nemesis was once again their undoing as the Lake Show was once again unable to find an answer for Houston guard, Aaron Brooks.

The Lakers' inability to guard the perimeter has always been a problem, but in the last two games it has been magnified, just as the absence of Pau Gasol keeps reverberating like a broken record.

In all honesty Gasol probably wouldn't have helped much this night, as Brooks constantly beat the Lakers from distance and at the rim. They simply had no answer for him.

His exploits left the Lakers looking old and slow and once again exposed as they are incapable of keeping opposing guards out of the paint.

It has become clear that if Kobe is not playing out of his mind, the Lakers are going to have trouble beating teams that are motivated and have quickness on the perimeter.

Bryant re-aggravated a groin injury, and his teammates were once again unable to pick up the slack. Ron Artest and Andrew Bynum did their best with 21 and 22 points respectively, but the lack of perimeter defense was a death-knoll.

The Lakers, reeling after their third loss in 11 games must now regroup and find a way to correct their perimeter problems. It seems easier said than done as they have been vulnerable to penetration all season long.

It seems like other teams have figured out that the best way to compete with the Lakers is to attack them at their weakest point which is their lead guard position.

Someone other than Artest and Bryant will have to step up or the Lakers will find this replaying itself throughout the season.

Bryant has vowed to play through this latest injury, but Lakers fans have to be concerned with how his range of motion will be affected. Groin injuries tend to be the hardest to recover from and are known to linger for weeks.

This makes Gasol's return even more important because the Lakers can ill-afford to engage in battle with a less than healthy Bryant, and a hole-filled perimeter defense.

Boston and L.A. find themselves both coming off of consecutive losses, and the questions from fans and pundits are relentless.

In the Celtics case the answers can be found in a return to fundamental basketball, but in Los Angeles the wounds may run deeper and may have a more complicated solution to the equation.

Although it may be a little early to panic, there is definitely reason for concern in the city of angels.

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