Dwight Howard #12 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts as he injures his shoulder during a 107-102 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center on January 4, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.
After Sunday’s nail-biting win over Detroit, the Lakers have won two of their last three games on the road. Overall, the Lakers have won five of their last six games, and LA is trending in the right direction. However, Kobe Bryant and company have displayed a couple of troubling trends that cannot be ignored.
First of all, the Lakers cannot hold large leads.
The Lakers have jumped out to sizable leads in each of the past four games only to see all those leads dissipate late in each contest. In Sunday’s win over the Pistons, the Lakers led by 18 points in the third quarter, but a missed Will Bynum layup with less than four seconds remaining was the difference between a Lakers’ win and a Lakers’ loss at the Palace at Auburn Hills. Bynum’s shot hit the rim twice before falling out, and the Lakers held on to win 98-97.
With the Lakers blowing leads of 18 points against Detroit, 29 points against Minnesota, 13 points against Phoenix, and 18 points against the Hornets, the last four games supply plenty of cause for concern.
Luckily, the Lakers only lost one of those four games, so blowing the large leads has not burned the Lakers, save for the loss in Phoenix. However, many still chalk up the loss to the Suns to Dwight Howard’s shoulder injury.
Speaking of which, the Lakers’ second developing troubling trend is the fragility of Howard’s right shoulder.
Howard re-aggravated his torn labrum in the loss to Phoenix with about seven minutes remaining in the game, and he watched the agonizing final seven minutes from the bench. Howard missed the games in Minnesota and Detroit, but he is expected to play against Brooklyn on Tuesday.
The big center watched Sunday’s game from the bench in his warm-ups despite not being activated. This is not the first time Howard has opted for sweatpants over dress pants. Previously, Howard opted to watch from the end of the bench in his gold warm-ups on Jan. 11 when the Oklahoma City Thunder came to visit Staples Center. At the time, Howard was out due to complications with the same shoulder.
Howard has either sat out or failed to finish seven of the last 15 games, and the Lakers have lost five of those seven games.
The Lakers’ inability to maintain leads combined with Howard’s unreliable shoulder are developing problems for the Lakers.
LA has still has four games remaining on the seven-game Grammys road trip. With difficult games in Brooklyn, Boston, and Miami coming up, the Lakers need to buck their troubling trends and keep collecting wins in order to legitimately remain in the playoffs conversation.
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