In a two-day span, the Lakers morphed from a playoff-contending team into one that can't beat a bottom-dweller.
During that time, a number of things changed. Kobe Bryant went from dominant scorer to streaky shooter. Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum went from representing the Lakers' distinguishable strengths to their underutilized strengths. Metta World Peace went from a dominant defender and a reliable scorer to, well, his usual unpredictability. The Lakers' bench went from sustaining leads to blowing leads. The team's transition defense went from remaining disciplined to overwhelmed.
It's unfair to make snap judgements on the state of the Lakers on just a two-game sample size. But it illustrates a season-long trend that shows how the Lakers' identity remains unsettled. It further illustrates that regardless of the team's recent progress, the front office still needs to take care of an upgrade at point guard. It shows that L.A.'s (23-15) position in the Western Conference standings remains flimsy, with the Clippers (22-14) holding a percentage-points lead over the Lakers for third place in the Western Conference and No. 1 Oklahoma City (30-8) and runner-up San Antonio (25-12) sitting comfortably above them.
The Lakers built double-digit leads four times in the first half but went into halftime trailing 45-41. They rallied in the third quarter to take a 61-54 lead into the fourth quarter but gave it all back and were lucky to force overtime when Bryant drained a 19-foot jumper over Tayshaun Prince at the buzzer. They allowed Pistons guard Rodney Stuckey to score 34 points.