It was the second time in just 35 days that the Lakers fell to the marginal team, only this time it was by double digits. It also evened out the Lakers record since Thanksgiving Day to a disturbing 9-9. It gets more disturbing when you look at some of the details.
Over that time frame their opponents average winning percentage is .468, yet the Lakers have only outscored them by a little over half a point, with a .55 margin. They have topped the 100 point barrier in those 18 games only six times. Those aren't very good numbers, but when you filter out the weakest opponents it gets even grimmer.
Since then the Lakers have two losing streaks of three games or more. They only have one win against a team over .500 and in fact, only two against opponents over .400. In fact if you look at the splits against teams over .400 in that stretch, it's appalling.
In 11 games against those teams, the Lakers have only won twice. They have been outscored by double digits four times, but only have one double digit victory themselves.They are getting blown out far more than they are doing the blowing out.
They have been held below 90 points on five occasions, but only have topped the century mark twice. Their opponents have been held below 90 only two times, while eclipsing 100 on three occasions.And this against teams that are over .400 not .500.
In fact the six games they've played with records between .400 and .500 they are only 1-5, and have been outscored by 6.33 points. It's only the weakest teams the Lakers have been beating for the last quarter of a season.
And that's where it becomes a concern, this isn't a patch. It's not a losing streak, it's a trend. And it's one that is going to need to be remedied sooner, not later. In spite of what some have tried to suggest the regular season does matter.
They are currently tied with the Utah Jazz in vying for the third seed out of the West. Climbing to second is historically very important. Since the merger, only one team has won an NBA championship with a seed lower than third, and only three have won with a three seed.
And while some will point to last year's Celtics team which landed the sixth seed and made it to the finals, those same Celtics are the current first seed in the East because they feel if they had the home court advantage last year, they, not LA would have won the finals.
Why have the Lakers struggled?
First, there is a reality that as Kobe Bryant has said, these games mean more to their opponents than they do to the Lakers. The Lakers are the two time champs and the fact is when teams play them, they are all in. The Lakers aren't. However, if they are going to turn things around they are going to have to start caring.
The second reason is from two camps. There are those who claim that "Kobe shoots too much" and point to the fact the Lakers are 6-8 when Kobe takes more than 20 shots.
Then there are those who claim that "Kobe can't do it all himself." This camp postulates that everyone else on the team is sitting around waiting for Kobe to do it all. Not coincidentally the two camps seem to find positions that support their already established feelings regarding Kobe.
Whichever is true, it seems that the problem is everyone's fault. If Kobe is shooting too much, the team needs to let him know. If the rest of the team is not shooting enough, Kobe needs to let them know. After all, leadership isn't a hat you wear only when the going is good.
It's clear something is wrong with Pau. His numbers before Thanksgiving are very different from what they are since then. His points per game have fallen from 22 to 16, his rebounds from 12 to 10. His field goal percentage was at .553 before Thanksgiving, since it is .485. That's a considerable drop off. The hamstring is clearly having its effect.
Whether part of the "blame" rests on Pau is a different question than whether part of the reason does. The slack from his drop off needs to be picked up somewhere, whether it be Kobe, Odom, or the return of Bynum. But the problem isn't just in addressing a little lost production. It's that the problem doesn't seem to be getting addressed.
It may sound like apostasy to suggest this, but perhaps the Lakers need to take a page out the Miami Heat handbook and have a team meeting. Press conferences aren't the place to be dropping messages to one another, the locker room is.
The problem with the Lakers isn't in regards to talent, they surely have that. The starting five is the same team that won last year. It's not in coaching, not when arguably the greatest coach in NBA history is captaining the ship. It's that amorphous "together" that seems to be the problem. What is manifest on the court is possibly the expression of a problem off of it.
The team that accepted the rings at the beginning of the season needs to come together again. They need to rekindle their 'bromance" if they are going to be winning a third this season, and they need to do it before it's too late. Delaying this much longer could mean the difference between an obstacle overcome and failure.