Los Angeles Lakers: Do Losses to Celtics, Heat on National TV Spell Doom?

Samuel Bell JrSenior Analyst IFebruary 2, 2011

Kobe Bryant
Kobe BryantJeff Gross/Getty Images

Are the L.A Lakers out of gas? Have the champs finally begun to succumb to age and mileage like the old tire reference Jerry West used to describe them last week?

Mr. Competitive himself Kobe Bryant is having none of it, but even his legs have shown serious signs of wear and tear so far this season.

It's not as if the Lakers are the worst team in the league or anything, but when you lose games to teams like the Sacramento Kings and are completely outclassed and outplayed by your biggest rival on national television, everyone begins to panic a bit.

Not to mention your GM is coming out with the proverbial, "I'll trade someone to shake this roster up because they're under-performing," talk to light a fire under your rear end.

The Lakers looked bored and uninterested in recent losses to two of the NBA's best teams, the Heat and Celtics by double digits.

Ron Artest has completely bottomed-out, Pau Gasol hasn't given them his best and Andrew Bynum isn't the factor the team needs him to be if they are to raise the banner for a third straight title.

Phil Jackson seems ready to retire along with the aged legs of Derek Fisher.

The consensus seems to be that every championship caliber team gets lethargic in the regular season but will turn it on in the playoffs, but do the Lakers have enough left in the tank?

Additions of Matt Barnes and Steve Blake were supposed to solidify the bench and give more rest to Fisher and Bryant, but Barnes is injured and Blake's numbers are down.

L.A has the second best record in the Western conference behind the San Antonio Spurs, but look extremely vulnerable and is putting little to no fear in opponents hearts when facing them.

In other words, any of the top four seeds would have a legitimate shot against them.

Why were the Lakers beaten so thoroughly in two of their biggest games of the season? Are they that inferior to the Heat and Celtics? Here's a look into each of the losses and why the Lakers have a lot to improve on by April.

12/25/10 Loss at Staples Center to Heat, 96-80

Bryant attempted to get in LeBron James head by jawing and trash-talking him, but James took it to the bank with a triple-double and blowout of his former Olympic teammate in his gym.

Everyone knows when LeBron is actually making his three-point attempts, there is absolutely nobody on American soil who can stop him.

Unfortunately for L.A, 'Bron's three-point shooting was the least of their worries.

His ability to get into the lane easily was a bigger issue, and he continuously set up his teammates to the tune of 10 assists to go along with 27 points and 11 rebounds.

The smaller Heat controlled the paint, shot better from three and inside, had less turnovers, more blocks, steals, assists and fast-break points. Total domination.

Chris Bosh made a mockery of Artest and Lamar Odom, James outperformed Bryant and Dwyane Wade and Pau Gasol canceled each other out.

This is a game that if it was any indication of where the Lakers are headed, it won't be long before Phil can hang up his coaching suits for one last time.

Miami did everything better than L.A that night, and there honestly was no bright spot in Staples.

1/30/11 Loss at Staples Center to Celtics, 109-96

Paul Pierce has been a Laker killer for his whole career, and he stayed true to form in this game going toe-to-toe with Kobe and holding his own in a resounding win in L.A.

Bryant scored 41 points on 16-of-29 shooting including 3-of-5 from the three-point line, but totaled 0 assists and failed to get anyone else involved.

Pierce, on the other hand, scored 32 points on 11-of-18 shooting and also was 3-of-5 from three, but added three assists and five rebounds.

The undoing of L.A in this game again was lackluster defense, allowing Pierce to get to his spots too easily and giving free lanes and shots to Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.

The trio of Allen, Rondo and Garnett accounted for 49 points, 20 rebounds and 24 assists while shooting a combined 22-for-33 from the field aside from Pierce's performance.

In contrast the Lakers trio of Odom, Gasol and Bynum combined for 38 points, 18 rebounds and 3 assists while shooting 14-of-27 from the field. That won't get it done.

Defensively, the Lakers are giving up too many easy shots and allowing players to get to where they are comfortable on the court without much resistance.

Despite their size advantage, they are being outworked on the glass and giving up high rebounding totals to smaller teams and second-shot opportunities.

Offensively, Bryant dominates the ball as he always has, but players are standing and watching, especially when down in the fourth quarter of games to good teams.

Gasol isn't establishing himself consistently on the low block, Artest is giving them nothing and the duo of Bynum and Odom are soft and being thrown around in the post.

The same issues that plagued the Lakers in the 2008 Finals have made a valiant return. Teams are simply out-toughing them and seem more confident.

One thing for certain is teams such as the Celtics, Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder smell blood in the City of Angels, and the Lakers need to wake up before the playoffs come or it may be a rainy May in L.A.

One cannot assume doom on the NBA champions yet, but games coming up against the Spurs, Hornets, Celtics and Magic will tell us more. If the Celtics sweep, expect more panic in California and rightfully so.

With Jerry West and Mitch Kupchak accounted for, who would be next to pour gasoline on the pile next? Arnold Schwarzenegger?