Every time it looks as if the Los Angeles Lakers are about to find their footing and make a nice little run that lifts them into contention for a playoff berth, they go and lose another game.
That happened for the fifth straight time Wednesday night when the hobbled would-be champions were forced to start Robert Sacre from the Developmental League at center and fell 108-105 to the Spurs in San Antonio. With Pau Gasol out with a concussion and Dwight Howard recovering from a shoulder injury, the Lakers made a run at the Spurs, but couldn’t tie the score twice in the final seconds.
“We’ve lost five games in a row; it’s pretty self-explanatory,” Kobe Bryant, who had 27, said. “We still have to straighten some things out on the defensive end, but I feel like we competed.”
Really, though, that isn’t enough. The Lakers are 15-20, tied for their worst 35-game start since the 1993-94 season and tied for their fourth worst season since moving to Los Angeles in 1960-61 (via ESPN Stats and Info). In each game during their losing streak, they’ve given up 100 or more points. There was a glimmer of hope in the loss to the Spurs, but, in the end, it was still a loss.
“When we get our big guys back, then there’s no excuses,” Steve Nash said. “We really have to build our defense and do a better job.”
Under Mike D’Antoni, the team is 10-15, and earlier in the season D’Antoni was rankled by media questions about how little time he spends on defense with the players. Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich defended D’Antoni on Wednesday.
“He’s probably by now stopped trying to convince people he cares about defense because he’s not an idiot,” Popovich said (via ESPN Los Angeles). “He knows you have to play defense. People act like he’s never heard of the word, doesn’t know how to spell it and nothing could be farther from the truth. But, he’s wasting his time trying to convince all you guys that he cares about defense because it’s a better story the other way.”
On Tuesday night, Nash became only the fifth player to reach 10,000 assists, prompting the Los Angeles Times to ask if the team was on “the road to nowhere.”
“I obviously think with time — and that might mean through the summer — we can get better,” Nash said after that game, “but for this season it’s definitely going to be a challenge to turn this around, to find the chemistry and cohesion, to find a way for the pieces to work together, to a find a way to get back in transition defense better.
“There are a number of things we have to try to improve on to get better, but the one thing we can’t accept is to take our foot off the gas and accept things. We have to continue to fight.”
Is it too late for the Lakers, though?