Rampant turnovers, poor ball distribution, streaky shooting and unacceptable defense have led the Lakers to a 1-4 record in 2014. The team has been playing horrible ball for not just January, but for the past month, with games being already settled in the third quarter night after night. With fourth quarters gone to waste, I've begun to notice strange details of this Lakers team out of sheer boredom: why does Kendall Marshall look so weathered considering he's in his mid-twenties? How is it that Mike D'Antoni's moustache is more expressive than his eyes? When was the last time Pau Gasol was clean shaven? Is that scar on Xavier Henry's forehead ever going to completely heal, or will it look like he's got a weird widow's peak for the rest of his life?
This is what it's come to ladies and gentlemen--these musings as the team runs through fourth quarters of no competitive consequence.
As the Clippers were tearing through the Lakers like first graders through wrapping paper on Christmas morning, I took a look at the upcoming schedule for the month of January. I've touted for weeks that there is a solid chance the Lakers could win as little as between two and five games for the entire month. Now almost halfway through what is arguably the team's toughest section of the schedule, I began to wonder: could LA go 1-14 in January?
Breaking down the rest of this month's games, there's more than just a scant possibility. Let's take a look at the games, organized by probability of winning:
Only by the grace of God
These are two of the four best teams in the league. The Lakers are one of the West's worst road teams. Versus Miami, even if Dwyane Wade or LeBron James sits out, I can't foresee a win--Miami is simply too good. In regard to the Pacers, even though the game is at STAPLES Center in the Lakers's first home game in two weeks, Indiana has such a suffocating defense that I couldn't expect a victory in almost any scenario.
1/19, at Toronto Raptors
On the road, against one of the NBA's hottest teams? Without Kobe Bryant to bail them out of late game holes? Not happening.
Surprising, but not utterly impossible
If Eric Bledsoe was healthy, I'd notch this in the "Extreme upset" category. However, Phoenix is reeling without their starting guard, learning how to score and defend on the fly. The Suns will still be readjusting, but could still have enough to overwhelm the Lakers.
At Chicago should be an easy victory, right? No Derrick Rose, no Luol Deng, no chance? Wrong. The Bulls have rebounded nicely since trading Deng to the Cavaliers last week, turning in an xx-xx record with, what else, suffocating defense. The Lakers have had a really difficult time handling the ball as of late, which makes a bad matchup with one of the most crafty teams in the league.
In regard to Orlando and New York, I simply cannot give the Lakers any sort of positive edge on the road. They haven't won away from STAPLES Center since Kobe Bryant went down in Memphis in mid-December, and with so many players missing, I just don't think a win is likely. In fact, a scratch on the entire road trip is well within the realm of possibility.
Charlotte goes in this category if for no other reason that the Lakers always have a tough time taking down their immortal rivals from Carolina. They've only beaten the Bobcats twice in a season one time in the past decade, a staggering number considering Charlotte has just one over .500 record. Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson are more than capable of toasting the Lakers no matter where the game is played.
So you're saying there's a chance
1/17 at Boston Celtics
In Boston against one of the worst teams in the league, the Lakers have a shot at taking down the hated Celtics. It seems that no matter what the personnel or the year, LA will always get up in facing Boston. Even as horrible as this team has played as of late and all the new faces, it's unlikely that the team will turn in an absolute stinker against the C's. I wouldn't be at all surprised if they emerged victorious on January 17th, though I wouldn't at all give them the edge. It does not bode well for the Lakers that this is the kind of statement that gives them the best chance of winning for the rest of the month.
The main problem for the Lakers in January is that 10 of their 15 games are on the road. With so many injuries and with only a small chance that any of these players will be back by February 1st, the team you see right now is likely to be the same team that's about to embark on a seven game, eleven day road trip.
However, even as unwatchable as the Lakers have been this month, I truly do not expect a donut for the rest of the month. I suspect that they'll be able to grab a win at Boston or at home against Cleveland or Charlotte, as choppy as they may be. All in all, I'd expect the team to finish January at best 4-11, though more than likely with a 2-13 record.
It's going to be a rough one, friends. Get ready to make more, strange observations about your 2013-2014 Los Angeles Lakers in pre-determined fourth quarters.
--Follow this author @TheGreatMambino