Lakers keep falling on court and in standings
CHICAGO — It was just your typical Lakers game, with Pau Gasol demoted to reserve status, the NBA offering an apology a day too late and Dwight Howard practically no-showing as the windchill shoved the temperature below zero outside.
One thing remained the same: The Lakers were losers again.
The Chicago Bulls won, 95-83, the latest indignity in a Lakers season that unmercifully reached only its midpoint Monday at the United Center.
Howard took five shots, made two and looked more than ever like a one-year rental as the Lakers (17-24) dropped to sole possession of 12th place in the Western Conference.
Like Gasol earlier this season, Howard wants the ball more often. He urged reporters to look at the stat sheet after the game.
“It’s frustrating,” said Howard, who appeared disengaged most of the night and finished with eight points, five fouls and four turnovers. “I can’t do what I do best with five shots.”
On a team with a $100-million payroll, the guy making $1.2 million might have been the Lakers’ most energetic player. Earl Clark had 12 points and eight rebounds after taking Gasol’s spot in the starting lineup.
It’s a permanent switch, Lakers Coach Mike D’Antoni said, citing a “gut feeling” and, you know, the fact that Howard and Gasol can’t seem to play together in his push-the-pace offense.
“I’m not excited about it,” said Gasol, who had 15 points and 12 rebounds. “But right now I’m more worried about us as a team and us struggling, so it would be selfish of me talking how I feel about [this] in particular.”
Gasol said he would not seek a trade. The deadline for NBA teams to make a deal is Feb. 21.
Kobe Bryant continued to struggle with his shot for the Lakers, losers of nine of their last 11 games and an unthinkable 5-14 on the road.
He made seven of 22 shots and had only 16 points after missing all six of his three-point attempts.
Bryant cited dead legs the previous day after a 10-for-32 effort in Toronto and tried something new before Monday’s game, submerging his lower body in a hot tub instead of an ice bath.
It didn’t seem to work.
After Marco Bellinelli’s three-pointer put the Bulls up 10 with 2 minutes 26 seconds left, Bryant walked very slowly to the bench, sat down hard and sighed.
“He’s working a lot,” Howard said. “I told you guys earlier it’s going to be tough to keep that up all season.”
Bryant and Howard continued to misread each other on the court. One play said it all.
Bryant went airborne. Howard wasn’t looking for a pass that bounced off him and was stolen. Bryant reacted angrily and yelled at Howard, though he recovered and talked briefly with him at the next dead ball.
Not that it mattered much, but the NBA rescinded the second technical foul Howard picked up in the Lakers’ 108-103 loss to Toronto.
Howard was automatically ejected after that technical foul, which happened after Toronto forward Alan Anderson made contact with him as they ran down the court with 1:18 left in the second quarter. Howard had picked up a technical foul earlier in the game for arguing a non-call.
“It’s too late now,” Howard said Monday when asked about the NBA’s reversal.
D’Antoni joked that the league should also give the Lakers a do-over for the second half of that game.
The Bulls’ last three games had gone to overtime, but no need to work that hard Monday. Kirk Hinrich had a season-high 22 points and fooled Steve Nash twice on crossover dribbles to create easy mid-range baskets in the second half.
It’s worth mentioning that the Bulls (24-16) played without leading scorer Luol Deng (sore hamstring).
It’s also worth mentioning that the Lakers can’t seem to beat anyone, anywhere. They’ll play in Memphis on Wednesday, with few people, if any, predicting victory.
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