The same old disturbing images play over and over again, and it appears the Lakers can’t do anything to hit the stop button.
The Lakers don’t defend. The Lakers concede All-Star performances to B-list players. The Lakers play without any buzz or star power. The Lakers lose.
Everything surrounding the Lakers’ 110-100 defeat Friday to the Charlotte Bobcats featured all those same elements that have made all their other games unwatchable. But instead of lauding his injury-ravaged roster for making the best of circumstances, Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni faulted them instead.
“They just weren’t ready to play, for whatever reason,” D’Antoni said. “Whether it’s the end of January, who knows. It’s inexcusable. We can’t do that. We better learn from it real quick or it’s going to be a long season.”
D’Antoni paused after he spoke those words. But before anyone could fully process that the Lakers (16-31) have only a one-game lead over the Sacramento Kings for last place in the Western Conference or that the Lakers have conceded over 100 points in 14 consecutive games, D’Antoni confirmed the obvious.
“It already is. It could be ugly,” D’Antoni said. “They have to understand that the only chance we have is to have 48 minutes of energy. We didn’t have it.”
No, they didn’t.
The Lakers made a Charlotte team that ranks 29th out of 30 NBA teams in total offense (94.1 points) appear like an unstoppable scoring machine. Al Jefferson dropped a career-high 40 points and 18 rebounds. In fairness, Jefferson has posted at least 30 points and 10 rebounds for three consecutive games. But D’Antoni’s joke that the Lakers’ defensive scheme entailed “keeping him under 50” seemed more believable than the team’s stated strategy in varying coverages involving various double teams.
The Lakers also lacked any hustle on the boards (losing 49-41). They looked disoriented protecting the paint (conceding 64 points in that area). After each failed rotation, Pau Gasol noticeably threw up his hands in disgust.
“You have to take it personally first,” said Gasol, who scored 24 points on 9-of-17 shooting. “Individually you have to make a commitment and make yourself accountable. Then create an effort to communicate and create an engagement on the floor. Otherwise, it’s going to be too difficult. Every mistake now is a big load on our shoulders. We don’t seem to get the right energy and mindset.”
Oh, the Lakers said the right things afterwards.
“That’s not just on our bigs,” Lakers guard Kendall Marshall said. “That’s on the entire team. There’s times where we decided to go double and we’re giving up layups on the backside. That’s nowhere near just our bigs fault. It’s the entire team. We have to find a way to stop.”
But the Lakers have said the same words plenty of times already.
They echoed them after conceding a wide open to Taj Gibson with .09 seconds in a loss last week to Chicago. The Lakers muttered them after allowing Miami’s LeBron James and Chris Bosh dominate them all over the floor. D’ANtoni and Gasol ranted and raved about the Lakers’ poor defense the following night against Orlando. More frustration spilled out two days later when New York’s Carmelo Anthony feasted all over the Lakers. The Indiana Pacers tore up the Lakers with plenty of balance.
Suddenly, it appears as if the Lakers’ vow to fight doesn’t really mean anything.
“I can’t do nothing but believe in myself,” Lakers forward Nick Young said. “I know that. We got guys who aren’t quitters. I believe in all of us. We still get along. We just have to find that balance. We have to support each other more than everything right now. We can’t point fingers or get distracted or start fighting among each other. It’ll make it worse and make it a longer season than normal. Right now we have to bond together.”
Meanwhile, the Lakers are clinging onto hope that the possible return of Steve Nash, Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar on next week’s trip will end the mess. They’re adamant they’ll stand up and scrap some more. Gasol mentioned how the team can still play for “pride, our fans and the name we have on our chest” when it really appears the Lakers are just playing for lottery ping-pong balls.
Whatever the case, the Lakers reality stays the same.
The losses keep piling up. The rhetoric has sharpened. Yet, nothing changes one bit.
“These are excuses you can throw out there,” D’Antoni said. “It’s all nice we have injuries and we have this and things aren’t going well. Somehow we have to find ourselves overcome that and fight and draw a line in the sand and say it’s not happening. We’re trying to develop that mentality. Hopefully we will.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org