Lakers-Pacers: Fourth Quarter Shows Jury's Still Out on Los Angeles

Keith GrieveContributor IDecember 3, 2008

The Lakers were not the only team in the NBA last night to give up 30 points in the fourth quarter.

Every team that did lost—including the Toronto Raptors, who gave up 30 points in EVERY quarter.

I have said that for the Lakers to show the world that they are serious title contenders, they should win this game (among others). I still stand by that statement.

For all the strides the Lakers made during the course of last season culminating in the trade that brought Pau Gasol over from the Memphis Grizzlies, the one thing that kept them from an NBA Championship was defense.

That sore spot reared its ugly head again last night in Indiana, giving up a 15-point lead and an ungodly 32 points in the last frame.

Indiana still needed to a tip in at the buzzer to win, but if you're going to claim you're ready to hoist another banner you can't—repeat: cannot—play like this in the fourth quarter.

Scanning the box score shows a typical Laker output, aside from coming up short behind the line and leaving 12 points at the foul line.

However, a 15-point lead going into the fourth quarter should be safe for any team trying to stake a claim to the throne. Let's not even get into the fact that it happened against a team that was 6-10 going in to the game.

And no, you can't use the 'it's only December' excuse and you can't take comfort in the fact that the Pacers also beat the Celtics.

To paraphrase Vince Lombardi, you need to do things right all the time. Not some of the time. Not when it's convenient or when you absolutely have to.

A true winner does what is needed to come out on top all the time.

Until this Laker team does that, everyone just keep your excitement in check.

Tonight's game is in Philadelphia. We'll learn something more about this team and the kind of effort and performance they put up. Philadelphia is coming off an overtime win against the Bulls and travelling almost the same distance so the teams should be fairly even as far as fatigue is concerned.

A Laker win, and we can all start to get a little excited. Another loss, and we're one step closer to where we were in June: wondering just what kind of team this bunch really is.