Lakers' woes continue against Raptors
We've given each other some hard lessons lately
But we ain't learnin'
We're the same sad story that's a fact
One step up and two steps back
That's part of a verse from Bruce Springsteen's "One Step Up." And the lyrics are a perfect description of the 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers went into Sunday's game at Toronto just 2 1/2 games out of a playoff spot, facing a bad Raptors team missing their second leading scorer in Andrea Bargnani. Armed with the motivation of moving up in the standings, the Lakers seemed to have the perfect scenario to end their four-game losing streak on the road.
But they didn't.
Something is very, very wrong in Lakerland.
The Raptors went on an 11-0 run after the Lakers scored the first basket of the game and never looked back, coming away with a 108-103. The Lakers are now 17-23 and three games behind Houston and Portland for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
It didn't help matters when center Dwight Howard was ejected from his second game of the year late in the first half, when a double technical foul was called on him and Alan Anderson of the Raptors when they tangled after a free throw. Howard also picked up a tech in the first quarter for arguing a call with the referees. He finished with five points, two rebounds and one block in 17 minutes.
Kobe Bryant had 26 points but shot miserably from the field, missing 22 of 32 attempts. Pau Gasol was back in the starting lineup and moved to the middle when Howard was ejected. He finished with 25 points and five rebounds. Earl Clark had another huge game off the bench with 14 points and 14 rebounds. Jose Calderon led the Raptors (15-26) with 22 points and nine assists, while Landry Fields added 18 points and 10 rebounds.
Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni was visibly frustrated after the game and torched his team about the lack of effort put forth against Toronto.
"You've got to give (the Raptors) credit, but overall we just weren't very good," he said. "We've got a lot of issues.
"Offensively we struggled, and defensively we took a step back and just weren't very good. We have to get the Lakers right. We haven't gotten it right yet, and that has to be our focus. We can't worry about the other team. We have to worry about the Lakers and the effort we're giving."
Bryant said that you can blame him and his poor shooting for the loss, but he admitted he wants the blame put on him for everything that goes wrong so his teammates don't have to worry about it.
"I'm used to this stuff man," Bryant said. "I've been through a lot worse than this. "(The media scrutiny) makes it hard and can create a division because they want to know what's the reason and whose fault it is. So just let me take all that; this way we don't have to worry about that as a team. I'll take the arrows, and it will let us do what we do best, and that's playing together and figuring out how to get out of this ditch."
A ditch that seems to get deeper by the day.
1 — As the season goes on, it's becoming clear that D'Antoni and his coaching staff are struggling to get through to this Lakers squad. Yes, it's on the players to come out ready and to play with the necessary consistent effort to win games. It's the job of the coaching staff, however, to keep them motivated to do that. Either D'Antoni and crew can't figure out a way to break through to the players, or they don't know how. If it's the former, it's correctable, even though time is running out. If it's the latter, the Lakers organization will have made two poor coaching hires in a row.
2 — When referee Ken Mauer reviews the game film and sees what a horrible call he made in giving Howard his second technical foul and an automatic ejection, he likely will be embarrassed. All Howard did was get tangled up with Anderson, push and pull his way out of it and move down the court. If Mauer had a problem with that, he should have warned both players and sent them on their way. The actions were not worthy of a technical foul. When will these refs learn that no one pays to see them ruin a game with ridiculous calls? They pay to see the stars play basketball, and the league needs to remind them of that with hefty fines for lame calls like the one on Howard.
3 — Kobe said it again after the game: "We played hard and just ran out of time." Every player on the team has said it at one time or another. Truth of the matter is, they wouldn't have to worry about making another comeback late in the game if they played tough defense from tip-off until the final buzzer. They have the ability to do it. They just don't currently have the commitment to make it happen.