Dwight Howard #12 of the Los Angeles Lakers talks with teammate Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers against the Boston Celtics during the game on February 7, 2013 at TD Garden in Boston.
You are only as good as your last loss in Laker Land.
The Los Angeles Lakers were reminded of that fact on Thursday. For a team that has won six of seven games, one loss was hardly worth worrying about, right?
Unfortunately, the problem with the "Boston blowout" was not simply that the Lakers lost big on the road. No, one embarrassing loss is no reason to panic. If Thursday night was just one odd day in a season, it would be forgivable and understandable. The cause for concern with Wednesday’s loss to Boston was that these same Lakers have lost in this same embarrassing manner time and again this season.
At the moment, the fear is that the Lakers are about to take another dark, dispiriting, depressing and ultimately destructive dive that will cost them the season.
At the moment, that is the fear. It is not reality.
Before the weight of the loss to Boston can completely settle in, the Lakers must look ahead to Friday night’s game against the Charlotte Bobcats. LA can, and should, win on Friday night considering Charlotte's 11-37 record on the season. The Bobcats are the worst team in the NBA.
However, these Lakers are perfectly capable of losing that game.
In order to win on Friday, the Lakers need to improve in two areas: ball movement and defense.
It may be easy to simply look at Kobe Bryant’s 27 points on 9-15 shooting from the field and say he was innocent in the loss to Boston. His seven rebounds provide some more cover for the dysfunction that took place in New England.
The "Magic Mamba" had zero assists against the Boston Celtics. What happened to the new ball-sharing Bryant?
Kobe may not have launched 30 shot attempts, but he also did not play the entire fourth quarter. Zero assists is unacceptable, and he cannot revert to an isolation-scorer. One win in Brooklyn did not change what the Lakers need from Kobe in order to win. The Lakers need 10 assists and 10 rebounds from Bryant far more than they need 30 points.
The other key component for the Lakers’ formula for success comes from Dwight Howard. He needs to display desire to be on the floor and to patrol the paint.
With Pau Gasol gone, the Lakers are not going to out-shoot and out-score teams by simply playing superior offense. Allowing 116 points in the loss to Boston is unacceptable. The responsibility and blame fall on the captain of the defense: Howard. He needs to do better than six fouls, six defensive rebounds, no blocks, no steals and four turnovers in 28 minutes.
This Lakers team urgently needs Kobe and Dwight to play winning basketball together on both ends of the floor. Both need to sacrifice their individual goals to create a connected team unit.
Otherwise, the Lakers -- who had won six of their last seven games -- will quickly transform into the Lakers that started the new year with 10 losses in 12 games.