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MARK HEISLER / ON THE NBA

Lakers find another way to dial up fans' anxiety

The Spurs' 100-81 victory over the Lakers shows that one win in L.A. over the Jazz is no cure-all.

April 04, 2010|Mark Heisler

OK, that's enough humility.

Little as any Laker wanted to talk about it, that was a shocking 100-81 loss they suffered to San Antonio, the old rival they'd beaten in 10 of the last 15 meetings before Sunday when the Spurs turned the mismatch around.

In the really bad news for the Lakers, they approached it like a big game, as they have recently ... while losing four of six ... as they, quote, gear up for the playoffs.

This raises a question:

What happens if you dial it up, and you're even worse than when you lacked urgency?

"Well, it doesn't bode well for the playoffs or building momentum, but we can't seem to put together a good game from one opponent to the next," said Coach Phil Jackson.

"Maybe if we have one single opponent for seven games, we'll be able to do that."

Entertaining as Jackson is, there aren't a lot of adherents to his Don't Worry, Be Happy Theory left.

Actually, from the language Jackson used in the dressing room before coming out to reassure the media, I don't think he's so happy, or unworried, either.

Friday's solid victory over Utah seemed to end the latest "crisis" that had prompted owner Jerry Buss to make a rare visit to practice, General Manager Mitch Kupchak to pronounce himself "very concerned," and Jeanie Buss to plead for calm on talk radio.

Sunday was supposed to be the Lakers' second step back against the gallant but recently overmatched Spurs, with a win locking up No. 1 in the West.

Before the game, Gregg Popovich, the free-wheeling Phil of San Antonio, acknowledged looking at the standings and wondering who they might play ... like the Lakers in the first round if they fall to No. 8.

That, of course, made him the first coach ever to admit it.

"They're full of it," said Popovich, laughing.

"They're the ones that say, 'We don't care who we play.' They're full of baloney too, because we're all trying to hide from the Lakers in the first round.

"I mean, really, who do you want to play in the first round? 'Oh, the Lakers.'

"What an idiot you'd have to be."

To that point, things seemed normal, with the Spurs acknowledging their underdog status.

Then the game started and they kicked the daylights out of the Lakers.

Suddenly, it wasn't one-sided at all.

The Lakers had Pau Gasol. The Spurs had Tim Duncan.

The Lakers had Kobe Bryant. The Spurs had the Argentine Kobe Bryant, Manu Ginobili.

Unfortunately for the Lakers, their Kobe was still cold ( eight for 24 from the floor Sunday, 13 for 47 over two games).

The Argentine Kobe, meanwhile, was still on fire. After a 43-point breakout Friday in San Antonio's win over Orlando, Ginobili scored the Lakers' Kobe on Sunday, 32-22.

If Lakers fans want to worry, there's a long list of stuff, starting with Bryant's finger, which he says is fine. Of course, if Kobe had the finger amputated, he'd say it was fine.

In another muted postgame interview, Bryant said they just missed a lot of shots.

It's true, you have to shoot well if you let the other team score 100, while shooting nearly 49% and going seven for 18 on three-point shots.

This isn't rocket science. If you want to know what's wrong with the Lakers, it has something to do with opponents scoring 108-109-100 in their last three losses.

Before that, the Lakers held Oklahoma City to 91. Unfortunately, the Thunder held them to 75.

The Lakers' defense is designed to drive opponents into the L.A. shot-blockers, one of whom, Andrew Bynum, is missing, in case you haven't heard.

"Someone's got to take the charge," Jackson said. "Still, you funnel players there and somebody's got to be in position and is supposed to be ready."

Just offhand, how many charges can you remember any Laker other than Derek Fisher taking lately, or ever?

The Lakers could still be fine if they get Bynum back healthy before the playoffs.

They'll have to hold together until then, as they head out on the road again for their next game ... in Denver.

In other words, the big turnaround may not be immediately at hand, assuming there is one.

If the last trip raised the alert level in Lakerdom to Defcon 2, check your handheld for updates.

mark.heisler@latimes.com

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