There's nothing like a home game against the Golden State Warriors to serve as a tonic for the ailments of the basketball soul. Although the Los Angeles Lakers escaped with a win, it was more akin to putting a band-aid on a cut to stop the bleeding.
The Lakers prevailed in a match-up that was filled with energy, intensity, and plenty of up and down basketball, but they did nothing to demonstrate they had overcome the funk they have been mired in since their loss to Cleveland on Christmas Day.
From a fan's perspective this was great game to view because it was filled with plenty of points as the Lakers and Warriors combined for 242, and only a passing semblance of defense.
Golden State opened with a burst and held a lead that grew to 15 points in the second quarter, but alas these are the Warriors, and one thing you can be sure of, is they are incapable of holding a lead.
One reason is because their roster doesn't have a player like Kobe Bryant, and another reason is their roster doesn't have a player that can guard Bryant either, as he turned the game into his own personal playground.
Bryant erupted for 44 points and 11 assists, his 103rd career 40 point game which ranks as the third most 40 point games in NBA history and on this night his team needed every one.
Golden State will never be confused with the Cleveland Cavaliers, but this win was important for the Lakers for a couple of reasons and one of them is they avoided back-to-back losses, and they were again without Ron Artest.
Artest was slated to play Tuesday night, but was scratched before game time due to injuries sustained during a fall on Christmas night, and the Lakers could have definitely used his services.
The Warriors are a hard team to gauge your defense on, as their motto is push the ball at all costs, but this game continued a disturbing trend for the Lakers.
During the Lakers' 11 game winning streak they managed to hold each opponent under 100 points, but in the past four games each opponent has breached the 100 point barrier and two of those games have been losses.
Some of this can be attributed to the absence of Artest and his rugged defensive play, but the Lakers have recently resembled a team searching to find their identity.
Ever since being exposed by the Cavaliers on Christmas, the Lakers have struggled on the defensive end as other teams have mimicked the strategy employed by Cleveland, which is to attack the rim with reckless abandon.
Previously, the Lakers held the mirage of a team that was tough in the middle due to the athleticism and talents of seven footers Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum, but game after game that wisdom is proving to be a myth.
The Warriors, just like Sacramento, Phoenix, and Cleveland were able to get to the rim at will against the Lakers and mostly finish when the opportunity presented itself.
One problem the Lakers have not been able to hide with a veneer is their inability to guard the perimeter and the Warriors took turns punishing whichever Laker guard decided to offer any opposition.
Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry made it their business to reside in the lane while Earl Watson shot daggers from the outside in a typical Warrior offensive fireworks display.
The Lakers can thank Bryant and the Warriors for the victory because if Los Angeles is struggling to find a defensive identity, Golden State never had one in the first place.
I have become convinced that the Warriors have come to terms with their defensive ineptitude and have decided to forgo all efforts on that end of the court, while concentrating solely on putting the basketball in the hoop.
The only fallacy in that logic is that a team like the Lakers are more than capable of matching the Warriors point for point and have the added advantage of Gasol (27 points, 12 rebounds) and Bryant as the best players on the floor.
The fact that the Lakers have been able to retain the league's best record in the midst of an obvious slide is no easy feat, and the fact they have only lost back-to-back games once this season is impressive.
Lately though, neither of those feats can be attributed to the defense which has reverted to the inconsistent unit of last season, but in that, there lies some reason for hope.
The Lakers managed to ride those same inconsistencies all the way to the NBA championship and with the impending return of Artest to the line-up, there is no reason to believe they can't overcome those obstacles again.