The fact that the Los Angeles Lakers lost a home game to the Portland Trail Blazers minus the second half services of Brandon Roy is bad enough, but the manner in which they ended the game has to be concerning for Laker fans.
Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher, the two most decorated members of the Lakers' roster, missed three out of four free throws in the final seconds, and with the game tied, they converged on Martell Webster to create a foul from the three-point line.
Webster drained all three foul shots. Pau Gasol somehow wound up taking the last shot, an errant three-pointer, and the Lakers lost the game, thus creating even more questions at a time when the focus should be clear.
The Los Angeles Lakers hardly look like the defending NBA champions. Their failure to pay attention to the little details is something that must be corrected if they want to have any chance at repeating their title run of 2009.
The glaring flaws, like an inability to defend the point guard position and a weak reserve unit are one thing, but all-around defensive lapses and missing crucial free throws in pressure situations are related to concentration.
And concentration is the one element the Lakers should have already mastered, because with their other flaws exposed, a failure to focus could lead to early postseason disaster.
This is not the same Lakers team from last year, but it has more to do with an injury to Bryant than a drop-off in talent. And Kobe's broken finger looms as an imposing obstacle once the playoffs begin.
It's clear that Bryant's finger is affecting his shot, and his struggles at the end of the regular season stand as a testament to that. He needs to find a way to adjust his game and still remain relevant to his team.
If that means passing up shot attempts and acting as a decoy, then so be it. Because the ultimate goal is a championship, and the Lakers have more than enough scoring punch at other positions.
Their problem with the point guard position is of more concern, and after witnessing Andre Miller get to the rim at will, regardless of who he was matched against, it is the likely way the Lakers will be attacked in the postseason.
Fisher will continue to get beat off the dribble, because he no longer possesses the foot speed to keep up with the opposition. But if coach Phil Jackson insists on playing him, then the defense must adjust.
The foul called on Fisher at the end of the Portland game is an example of the Lakers' lack of defense once it has been penetrated. Instead of making smart rotations, they resort to reaching and eventually fouling.
But the missed free throws stand out to me, because Bryant and Fisher have both been in that position previously. And what other members of the team would you prefer in those situations?
One could say Bryant's finger was responsible for his frequent misses from the free-throw line on this evening, but that's just making excuses. It still doesn't explain Fisher's miss with a chance to take the lead.
Bryant and Fisher have both embellished their careers by thriving in pressure situations. Their lapse of concentration at the end of the game against Portland is more likely an exception rather than the rule.
In order for the Lakers to be successful in their goal of winning two consecutive championships, more attention must be paid to the minor details, and maximum concentration must be the focus.
The scary thing for the Lakers is, as defending champions, this is something that they should already understand. By this point in the season, it is a little late to be sweating the small stuff.