Final Score: Bulls suffocate Lakers 95-83

Jonathan Daniel

The Los Angeles Lakers are beginning to show definitive proof that they really are as bad as their record indicates.

There's really nothing left to say. The Los Angeles Lakers are not a good basketball team. It is possible (though no longer assumed) that they have a good basketball team in them somewhere, but it is equally possible that team will not make an appearance. They lack energy. They lack confidence. They lack consistency. They lack joy. Halfway through the season, the Lakers are 17-24. They've had some bad luck, some problematic injuries, sure. But they have also looked as bad in the past two games, against two beatable opponents, as they have all season.

Just one game after Dwight Howard spent the entire 2nd half in the locker room, he responded with a real gem of a game: 8 points and 9 rebounds in 30 minutes, with 4 TOs and 5 fouls. Kobe was similarly awful, failing to bust his shooting slump and ending the game with 16 points on 7-22 shooting. The Lakers can't win games in which either one of these guys fail to perform well, and that's all we've been getting the past week.

Meanwhile, another opposing point guard had another career night. defended mostly by Steve Nash, who had very little help on screens, Kirk Hinrich was close to a triple double with 22 points, 7 rebounds and 8 assists. That's a great line for anybody, but Hinrich averages 6 points, 3 boards and 5 assists per game this season. As has been the case all season, the most deserving All-Star in the NBA is whoever is playing the Lakers that night.

The season is half over, and the Lakers are seven games below .500. In the only other losing season of Kobe Bryant's career, the 2004-2005 Lakers were 22-19 after 41 games. A team starting Chris Mihm at center and Chucky Atkins at point guard significantly outperformed a team with Steve Nash at point guard and Dwight Howard at center. The Lakers are as close to the bottom of the Western Conference as they are to the last playoff spot. If the bottom of the WC playoff hunt wasn't filled with teams who are also struggling, any conversation involving the Lakers and the playoffs would already be over. As it is, the conversation probably should be.

After all, when your fully healthy squad is dominated by a team that is .500 at home and missing their two best players, the day after being dominated by a team that will not sniff the playoffs, it's time to look in the mirror and face facts. At some point, no matter what kind of luck they've had, no matter what kind of obstacles they've faced, the Lakers will be who their record says they are. That time sure looks to be now.

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