Lakers Final Score: Blazers Down Lakers, 116-106

Stephen Dunn

Dwight Howard's powerful offensive night can't make up for turnovers and defensive sloppiness in a 116-106 Lake Show loss.

A growing sense of crisis grips Lakerdom tonight following another grim performance by the purple and gold. In Portland to face a Trail Blazers team that few expect to contend for a playoff spot this year, the Lakers played as poorly as they did in their ill-fated opener and fell by the misleadingly small margin of 10 points. The final score was 116 to 106, but the Blazers led by 19 with less than five minutes to play in the fourth, giving a truer indication of their dominance in this one. It was a troubling night that raises a lot of questions about how long it's gone it's going to take this Lakers team to come together.

For the most part the Lakers' offense played much better than it did against Dallas. Dwight Howard's 33 points led a pretty sharp attack that averaged 1.15 points per trip. Dwight still doesn't have his usual vertical burst but he played more decisively and aggressively in the post, making quick moves to the hole against J.J. Hickson and Meyers Leonard. He earned himself 19 free-throw attempts and somehow got 15 of them to drop. He also had half a dozen offensive boards, leading to nine second-chance points. This is all encouraging. Not that Portland's a great defensive team or anything, but the improvement in Dwight's offensive game seems to be on pace.

He and teammates, though, were wildly careless with the basketball. Twenty-five turnovers, over half by the tandem of Kobe Bryant and Metta World Peace, kept them from ever putting together a big, game-swinging run and allowed the Blazers to score frequently on easy looks in transition. It didn't help that Steve Nash had to leave the game early in the third quarter after he banged his shin against Damian Lillard. Supposedly the injury isn't serious, but Nash was just starting to find a playmaking groove when the injury occurred. In his stead Steve Blake was decidedly low-impact.

The offense made a little progress tonight, but the defense, if anything, took a step backward. The insane numbers Portland put up (1.27 points per possession, 61% true shooting) are partly explained by the Lakers' turnover difficulties on offense and by some great outside shooting by the Blazers. Effort, scheme and execution, however, all need a whole lot of improvement. Lillard (23 points, 11 assists) had way too easy a time working his way into the teeth of the defense and finding open shooters. Pau Gasol struggled to handle LaMarcus Aldridge (19 points). Nicolas Batum (26 points) tortured the Lakers from the outside, in transition and on the offensive glass. At one point Sasha Pavlovic rebounded his own free-throw miss and converted an easy lay-in as five Lakers stared at him. I'm not a highly compensated defensive guru like Mike Brown but I'm pretty sure that's not supposed to happen.

The Lakers now return to Los Angeles to face the Clippers on Friday and the Pistons on Sunday. At the moment they're not even close to playing at a championship level. The notion that Laker fans are "panicking" I think is inaccurate. There are always a few knee-jerkers, of course, but most fans seem to understand the challenges Mike Brown confronts in trying to mold a reworked roster into something great. Still, dissatisfaction with the early returns is severe and justified. The Lakers have been trounced by a pair of teams that might both end up in the lottery. How bad will it get when the schedule presents them with better opponents?










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Follow Dex on Twitter @dexterfishmore.

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