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BILL PLASCHKE

Lakers lose not just a game but their dignity in rout by Clippers

The Clippers are unstoppable in a 142-94 victory at Staples Center, but that's overshadowed by the Lakers' spirit-less showing.

March 06, 2014|Bill Plaschke

They can't make enough pingpong balls to cover this mess.

Even those cheering for the Lakers to tank games were surely shocked and saddened Thursday night when, on their own floor against their hallway neighbor, they tanked effort. They tanked intensity. They tanked trust.

Why on earth would anybody want to actually spend money to watch or sponsor or contribute anything to this once-proud franchise again this season after they openly mocked their legacy and culture in a 142-94 loss to the Clippers?

On a night when the Clippers were unstoppable, their brilliance was still overshadowed by the Lakers' heartless lousiness, and enough about how they are missing Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash.

Does that mean they also have to be missing pride? Has there also been a season-ending injury suffered by dignity? Does that make it OK to come within a basket of losing to the Clippers by 50?

It was the biggest losing margin in Lakers history. It was the biggest winning margin in Clippers history. It was the worst night in this worst of Lakers seasons, which might have made it the Lakers' worst night ever.

It was so bad that Lakers fans, usually demanding curators of Lakers greatness, didn't even boo. It's hard to boo a comedy. It's unseemly to boo a farce.

Before the game, Clippers Coach Doc Rivers walked into a media scrum outside the Lakers' locker room and jokingly said, "Get off my wall, give me some room!" Turns out he was serious. Even when the floor says "Lakers" and the cheerleaders' uniforms say "Carl's Jr.," this is now the Clippers' house. Rivers took some flak at the start of the season for covering up the Lakers' championship banner during Clippers home games, but here's wishing he could have also covered them on Thursday.

Looking down on this dispirited mess of a team, Lakers history wept.

The Lakers trailed by only two entering the second quarter, and then were outscored 44-13 during a period in which they also were outscored 19-0 in fastbreak points.

The Clippers ran, and the Lakers didn't. The Clippers fought, and the Lakers fled.

Blake Griffin missed an alley-oop layup, fought off two Lakers for the rebound, and scored on a layup. Danny Granger wandered in untouched for an offensive rebound and layup, Darren Collison followed him moments later untouched for a layup, then Matt Barnes hit an open three-pointer, then Hedo Turkoglu hit an open three-pointer, then DeAndre Jordan threw down an alley-oop dunk, and you had enough yet?

We haven't even mentioned Chris Paul yet, probably because the Clippers would have won this game by 40 points with Cliff Paul.

Even when one of the Lakers showed some spark, the other four quickly snuffed it out. During one particularly embarrassing moment, Jordan Farmar actually won a baseline fight for a loose ball and valiantly threw it back in bounds near midcourt. Yet none of his teammates made a move to grab the ball. Barnes picked it up for the Clippers and threw it to Griffin for — you guessed it — an alley-oop dunk.

Farmar glared at all of his teammates as he walked to the bench. None of them could even look him in the eye. On this night, it was amazing any of the Lakers could look anybody in the eyes.

The one time the Lakers tried to get tough, they only got worse. Kent Bazemore exchanged words and glares with Griffin after Bazemore was knocked down on a hard foul … but then Bazemore missed both free throws.

There is a feeling around town — and agreed with here — that the Lakers need to lose as many games as possible to increase their chances of a high pick in this summer's draft. But do those losses have to come at the price of self-respect? Just because the Lakers are completely outmanned, is that an excuse for not showing up at all?

Mike D'Antoni hasn't had much to work with this season, but he's still in charge of making this team compete, and, with few exceptions this season, the Lakers haven't competed. If Jim Buss treated D'Antoni as he treated Mike Brown, he would have fired him long ago.

Because it's so late in the season, it's hard to imagine Buss pulling that sort of trigger now, but you never know. No matter what happens in coming days, it's impossible to imagine D'Antoni returning for next season. But again, with Buss, you never know, his penchant for bad decisions surpassed by his penchant for shocking decisions.

While D'Antoni will take the biggest fall here, Thursday night was a complete organizational fail. In the year since the death of Jerry Buss, there has been no clear organizational leadership, direction or plan. Their biggest hope is the return of aging superstar Kobe Bryant, upon whom Buss bestowed a two-year extension worth $48.5 million this season even before Bryant had recovered from his Achilles' tendon tear. Bryant, of course, has played only six games, making that extension one of many terrible Lakers moves this year.

None of which was as bad as Thursday, when a team that had already seemingly lost everything surrendered its last remaining shreds of heart, soul and identity. The Lakers are no longer even the Lakers.

bill.plaschke@latimes.com

Twitter: @billplaschke

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