I'm not surprised that the Los Angeles Lakers lost to the Charlotte Bobcats on Friday night, because the Lakers have made a habit of Struggling against Charlotte, but the manner in which they were beaten was revealing.
The Bobcats seemed to be the defending champions, and the Lakers the expansion team, as Charlotte blew Los Angeles out of Time-Warner Arena in a game that wasn't as close as the final 15 point margin would suggest.
Faced with the prospects of a Sunday afternoon game in Orlando, and the very real chance that they will lose three consecutive games for the first time this season, a gut-check may be in order for the Lakers.
Issues abound: Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol were once again dominated by a smaller front line, the combination of D.J. Augustin and Raymond Felton constantly abused Laker defenders, and Kobe Bryant had no offensive help whatsoever.
The trio of Gasol, Ron Artest, and Bynum shot a combined 8-32 from the field and the shorter Charlotte team equaled the rebound numbers of the Lakers with 41.
Los Angeles was listless, un-inspired, and looked as if they would rather be anywhere else than a basketball court, which raises some serious concerns about the future of the team going forward.
We have seen these Lakers before, and common perception says the indifferent attitude will disappear once the postseason starts, but by then it may be too late.
The Cleveland Cavalier faithful have been telling the world their team is different this year, and the Los Angeles faithful should take a long, hard look at their team and realize the same is true.
The NBA is much improved this year. The Lakers are behind their pace of 2009, and are not nearly as good on the road as they were a season ago. My 70 win prediction for the team seems extremely silly in hindsight.
Los Angeles will do well to reach the 60 win mark, and they would be crazy to think their recent style of play will hold no bearing once the postseason arrives.
The ability to elevate your game for the playoffs is a useful tool, but opponents are no longer as fearful of the Lakers as they were a year ago, and teams the Lakers dominated in the regular season have returned the favor this year.
The Cavaliers swept the Lakers this year, and by all accounts have appeared to be the better team so far, while the Denver Nuggets have embarrassed the Lakers twice, and barely lost a third game.
I'm well aware the postseason is a different atmosphere, and the talent the Lakers have and the manner in which the team was constructed is with the purpose of making an extended playoff run.
That may be true, but opponents are more capable of exposing the poor point guard defense of Los Angeles, and have no fear of the length and size of the Lakers' post players.
Bynum and Gasol are talented, but the perception that they are soft is a theory which seems more and more true as the season progresses. Teams feel if they bring a physical presence, Gasol and Bynum will eventually wilt.
Lately that has been the case, because the duo is most effective when they are able to play a finesse brand of basketball which caters to the versatility of their post games.
The opposition has turned the paint into a battle zone, and the Laker big men want no part of the war, as they have failed miserably in their last two outings in the paint.
It figures to be more of the same on Sunday as the Magic are capable of matching the size and strength of the Lakers in the post, and looking for a measure of revenge from their earlier meeting in Los Angeles.
Whether the Lakers lose or win this game will have no bearing on the outcome of their season, but the time has come to start playing with the pride of a recent NBA champion.
These recent nonchalant performances are becoming redundant, and the feeling that the Lakers can turn it on whenever they want to runs the risk of being exposed when the stakes are highest.