The Lakers coaching staff had plenty of reasons to criticize the team following their 102-91 loss Wednesday to the Clippers.
"They just said we played like boneheads," center Andrew Bynum recalled.
The statistics clearly spelled out many of the problems, with the Lakers shooting 38.4% and dishing out only 17 assists. Though the Lakers had hoped Ron Artest's return in the last two games would improve the team's defensive discipline, he's still a work in progress. Meanwhile, the Lakers yielded 54 points in the paint and allowed 26 points in transition.
Even with these daunting statistics, the Lakers have found ways before to overcome poor performances against sub-.500 teams. But they couldn't against the Clippers, who survived 10 ties and six lead changes en route to their first victory over the Lakers in 10 games.
The Lakers were victorious over Houston on Tuesday, thanks to Bynum's dominance inside and Lamar Odom's near-triple-double. Against the Clippers, center Chris Kaman's 21 points and 15 rebounds neutralized Bynum's 15 points and 14 boards, though it was his first double-double in 24 games.
Odom had a near-triple-double against Houston, despite feeling lousy with intestinal-flu-like symptoms that kept him from Monday's practice. Against the Clippers, those symptoms still lingered, and Odom finished with only nine points on three of 11 shooting.
So much for the Lakers having an inside presence to fill the void of Pau Gasol (sore left hamstring), who helped the Lakers clinch a victory last week against Golden State with a pair of clutch free throws.
"I always say the strength of our team is our depth," Odom said. "During the season there will always be people who go down. Of course we miss Pau. But we would miss Drew, Kobe and D-Fish. The strength of our team is our depth. So we’re prepared for that to happen. We just didn’t play well tonight."
The Lakers missed Derek Fisher and Kobe Bryant, but they were still present on the court. Fisher sat out the entire fourth quarter for the third time in the last week, going one of three for three points while backup guard Shannon Brown had 15 (the rest of the bench had eight points).
In a win on New Year's Day against Sacramento, the Lakers survived a 20-point deficit with Bryant making his third game-winner of the season. Against the Clippers, he finished with 33 points on 10 of 30 shooting. Though his 17 third-quarter points helped narrow the Clippers' lead to 79-73 entering the fourth quarter, it wasn't enough -- a rare case when Bryant couldn't successfully fight through the fracture to his right index finger.
"It’s sore," Bryant said. "It’s OK. I played through it."
Instead, it was the play of Clippers guards Baron Davis (25 points, 10 assists) and Eric Gordon (18 points) that dominated the backcourt.
"He was looking to ride that streak he got going in the third quarter," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said of Bryant."I tried to give him some rest. He got five or six minutes of rest, but he couldn’t regenerate that in the fourth."
Even though the Lakers still stand with an impressive 28-7 record, Bynum fears Wednesday's loss presents serious issues.
"We can't continue to play like that," Bynum said. "It's going to wear us out later on in the season."
-- Mark Medina
Photo: Josh Powell, left, Rasual Butler and Kobe Bryant await a rebound during the Clippers' 102-91 victory over the Lakers on Wednesday night. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times.