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Lakers continue to slide with 112-105 loss to Nuggets

They have lost three in a row and four of five after another poor defensive effort. L.A. is only 10-8 at Staples Center.

January 06, 2013|By Mike Bresnahan
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They weren't ear-splitting in volume but deafening in symbolism.

The "We Want Phil" chants returned to Staples Center after a two-month layoff, Lakers fans expressing their disgust with the product on the court amid yet another loss.

This time the Denver Nuggets beat the Lakers, 112-105, on Sunday.

Nothing's changing. The defense is still lousy, the offense is acceptable only in spurts and the Lakers fell to 10-8 at home, already more losses here than all last season.

Kobe Bryant got dressed, talked to reporters and disappeared from the locker room faster than any time in recent memory. He wasn't smiling. Not by a long shot.

The Lakers (15-18) aren't just old and awful at this point, they're injured too. Pau Gasol left late in the game after sustaining a deep cut on his nose, and Dwight Howard will have an MRI exam on his right shoulder Monday after aggravating a sprained rotator cuff.

Phil Jackson won't be coming any time soon, but the Lakers are feeling the strain of a season going asunder. Hearing it too.

"It's screaming at us, isn't it? We're not in a good place right now," said Coach Mike D'Antoni, chosen instead of Jackson to coach the Lakers after Mike Brown was fired in November.

D'Antoni tried to look on the bright side. "The hole's not too big. Mathematically, we can still make the playoffs," he said after the Lakers' third loss in a row and fourth in five games.

Not if this keeps up.

It was a loud locker room with a lot of cussing immediately after the game, according to one observer. Not at each other, somewhat surprisingly, but at how bad they've been playing in general. And if it can be fixed.

"I think it's fine for us to boil over a little bit, I think it's fine to get a little chippy and I get the sense that in this locker room that's finally starting to happen," Bryant said. "I think with this team we've been a pretty loose bunch from the start, but hitting this low that we're hitting now, hopefully that will put us emotionally at the rock bottom of it so that you kind of get that edge and play with that desperation."

Bryant did his best to win the game in the final minutes but came up short after starting out four for 16. He finished with 29 points on 11-for-26 shooting.

His three-pointer with 36.2 seconds left brought the Lakers within three but then their season synopsis unrolled for all to see.

Howard blocked Andre Miller's shot but Danilo Gallinari grabbed the rebound and hit a three-pointer with 13.8 seconds left.

Sure enough, not even luck is on the Lakers' side.

The fans let it be known what they wanted, not nearly as loud and forceful as they encouraged the Lakers to hire Jackson back in November with a series of "We Want Phil" chants at back-to-back games.

But they made themselves heard with 1:05 to play before the arena's overhead speakers drowned them out by playing U2's "Sunday Bloody Sunday."

True story.

Gasol was injured after Denver center JaVale McGee accidentally elbowed him. He did not return to the game but said he would be ready Tuesday at Houston and Wednesday at San Antonio.

Maybe it's good for the Lakers to get on the road. Things just aren't the same at home, where they went 26-7 last season, 30-11 the year before that and 34-7 and 36-5 during their back-to-back championship runs.

"It's definitely not what we expected as a team," said Gasol, who had 11 points and five rebounds in almost 34 minutes.

"Right now, teams come in here with a certain level of confidence. ... We have to cut that off."

The Lakers committed 18 turnovers, eight more than Denver, and lost in fastbreak points, 25-14.

Seemingly nobody remembered that Howard tied a career-high with 26 rebounds. He had 14 points and four blocked shots.

Said D'Antoni: "Because of our record, probably the pressure is building."

Can't get much worse than this.

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