LeBron James scored 39 points on 68% shooting against the Lakers. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)
For a moment once again, the Lakers looked like they might be on the right path, but by the end of Week 12, they had lost more ground in the Western Conference.
While preparing to play the Milwaukee Bucks, Pau Gasol was ruled out with a concussion (suffered on Jan. 6). The Lakers managed to take care of the Bucks, 104-88, for their second straight win.
In the two victories (the first against the Cleveland Cavaliers), Coach Mike D'Antoni asked Kobe Bryant to guard the opposing teams point guards.
NBA analyst and former Laker Robert Horry had ripped Bryant for his off-ball defense. Even Bryant admitted that he's better on the ball than off. With Bryant on point guards, D'Antoni said he isn't worried about Steve Nash guarding bigger players.
In two wins without Gasol, Earl Clark was an important part of the rotation. Gasol was cleared to play against the Miami Heat, coming off the bench, but the Lakers fell, 99-90.
Gasol considered his benching as a one-time thing related to his concussion. D'Antoni wouldn't commit either way. Gasol was forthright in saying he did not welcome serving long term as a reserve.
One thing was abundantly clear, Gasol and D'Antoni are not on the same page.
The Lakers would drop their second-straight game on Sunday morning to the Toronto Raptors, 108-103. Dwight Howard was ejected before halftime with his second technical foul.
The Lakers are paying almost $130 million for a 12th-place team. Before the loss to the Raptors, oddsmakers still favored the Lakers to make the playoffs.
In other news, LeBron James passed Bryant as the youngest to score 20,000 points. Bryant unveiled a new shoe commercial for Nike Basketball.
With Jordan Hill lost for the season, the Lakers requested a disabled player exception, which would give the team additional spending power to find a replacement.
Steve Blake got through his first practice since abdominal surgery but was delayed further with a groin injury.
In general, the Lakers were still hurt by missed free throws and turnovers.
A report linked the Lakers to Minnesota and forward Dante Cunningham. Howard declared that Wolves center Nikola Pekovic would be an MMA champion if he ever decided to join the sport.
Email Eric Pincus at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.