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MARK HEISLER / ON THE NBA

Lakers really, and we mean really, could be in trouble this time

They've taken regular seasons off before and still won championships, but their loss Sunday to the Celtics shows they have a long way to go to match up with the league's elite teams.

January 30, 2011|Mark Heisler

January 30, already?

(Yawn)

OK, how are we doing in the West?

Second place? Who's in first?

SAN ANTONIO?

We better get to work!

Everywhere else, the dog days run from the trade deadline, the week after the All-Star break, to April 1.

In Lakerdom, they start on Christmas and have lasted as long as the second round of the playoffs, as in the 2009 debacle, er, series against Houston.

In a handy lesson, the Lakers were on their way to winning a title in 2009, all appearances to the contrary.

All appearances to the contrary, they weren't dethroned Sunday when the Boston Celtics walked all over them in a 109-96 object lesson in who's whom in the pecking order.

We're talking humiliation … Celtics fans chanting "Beat L.A.!" … Celtics fan Matt Damon and friends yukking it up courtside between the Lakers' bench and superfan Norm Pattiz.

Happily for the Lakers, their world couldn't end Sunday.

It says so on the NBA schedule:

Tuesday — Houston.

Thursday — San Antonio.

Saturday — at New Orleans.

As Coach Phil Jackson said when asked about losing to all the good teams, smiling beatifically:

"Is it the playoffs yet?

"... We're playing regular-season games. We'll get there in time."

Or not.

That happens to Phil's teams too, although, amazingly, only eight times in 19 seasons.

His other 11 teams won titles. Several, especially with the Lakers, looked almost as bad as this one.

Other than that, of course, things are grim in Lakerdom.

If the Celtics are the best thing going, the Lakers have been as bad against the No. 2-3-4 best things, 0-4 against the Miami Heat, Spurs, Dallas Mavericks and Celtics … losing by 16-15-9-13.

Whether it's good news or not in Lakerdom, this was a special effort by your team.

Of course, if the Lakers played this hard all the time, they would be two or three games behind San Antonio instead of 7½ and Sunday would have felt more like a loss in January than the latest sign the end is near.

Before Sunday's game, the question was whether the Lakers could play at the Celtics' level.

I guess they settled that.

In a backward way, the Lakers' casual attitude gives them a lot of room to raise their game in spring, at least in theory.

The Celtics not only bring it nightly, they play with a ferocity that's scary with their shallow, creaky, smallish team having become so big, deep and efficient.

With veterans Paul Pierce and Ray Allen shooting over 50% for the first time, the Celtics came in at 49.9%.

If you weight that for three-pointers, of which they make 38%, that's a 57% "true" shooting percentage.

In other words, if you leave them open, they'll make a lot, which is what happened Sunday even with the Lakers trying.

With Pierce ignoring Ron Artest, who supposedly guarded him, en route to 32 points, the Celtics shot 60%.

Weighting that for their threes (nine for 17), that's a "true" 73%.

The Celtics also outrebounded the Lakers, 43-30.

Actually, the Lakers were lucky the Celtics didn't take any of them prisoner and cart them back to Boston.

In keeping with the mood, Channel 7 reporter Lisa Leslie asked Kobe Bryant:

"When it comes down to panicking, when do you panic?"

Jackson approached Sunday in standard Big Game mode, looking as if he might nod off or giving bemused answers, as when asked what Shaquille O'Neal brings the Celtics.

"Humor," said Jackson, grinning.

"I think there must be something," added Jackson, "but I'm not going to go there."

Funny he put it that way.

Shaq played as badly as he ever has — 13 minutes, no points, six rebounds, five fouls — and the Lakers didn't go there.

That is, they didn't attack through Andrew Bynum, their big, physical post player, who had six shots.

Instead, they attacked through Pau Gasol, their thin, skilled post player who was guarded by Kevin Garnett and shot five for 13.

So, at least the Lakers know what they have to work on!

Unfortunately, they play in Boston on Feb. 10 and that might not be enough time.

Who, them discouraged?

"If I say, yes, I'm concerned," said Derek Fisher, "or no, we're not playing as great as we'd like to play right now and that's where the gauge is, what does that really tell us?"

It tells us his dismay is his business, he's been here before, it was always scary and this is the scariest yet.

mark.heisler@latimes.com

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