AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

What an ugly game that was to watch. The Lakers fell below .500 once again this season as they lost to the Indiana Pacers Tuesday night and now have a 7 – 8 record to show for it. Some might credit the defensive efforts of both teams, but it was obvious that these two ball clubs were just flat out missing their shots.

On the night of Chick Hearn’s 96th birthday, the Lakers laid an egg from beginning to end in this ball game. As bad as the Purple and Gold played, they still had a chance to take the lead with just around a minute left in the 4th quarter, but both Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace missed their two free throw attempts.

This team desperately needs Steve Nash to come back and direct this offense; 12 points in the 2nd quarter is abysmal for any NBA team, let alone one with Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard in the starting lineup. The Denver Nuggets will march into the Staples Center on Friday night seeking revenge for last year’s playoff exit at the hands of the Lakers. Let’s hope this team is ready. Here are the grades for tonight’s atrocious loss:

Darius Morris: C-

The young fella needs to start hitting his free throws or else it won’t matter how much energy he brings to the court because he will not play.

Kobe Bryant: A-

Kobe showed off the clutch gene once again when he hit a tough 3-pointer to tie the ball game with under a minute left. On a night where he was suffering from the flu, Kobe still had to carry this team just to stay competitive. Not a bad shooting night, but the 10 turnovers were very costly in this tight ball game. I still don’t understand why Coach D is playing Kobe so many minutes when he should be the one player getting the most rest during games.  Let’s hope our coach knows what he’s doing and the effect it will have come playoff time…

Metta World Peace: B-

Metta was getting robbed on almost every shot attempt by the rim tonight. Even though the shots weren’t falling, Metta once again brought the hustle and defense that this team needs from him. Still, missing both his free throws at the end of the game is embarrassing and played a large part in the Lakers losing this game.

Pau Gasol: C

You have to wonder how much the tendinitis in Pau’s knees is affecting him when his shots and passes are constantly getting blocked by the opposition. When Dwight was out of the game, Pau rarely posted up. In fact, he hovered around the perimeter thinking he was a guard instead of a 7 foot post player. Pau is at his best when he posts up on the block and makes a quick, decisive move towards the basket, but most of the time he chooses to hold the ball for an extended period of time while the defense is able to set up and negate his strengths.

Dwight Howard: B-

Laker Nation saw the Achilles heel of this team when the playoffs begin: Dwight’s lack of clutch-ness. When his team needed one free throw, Dwight missed both of his attempts and Lakers fans would be lying if they didn’t admit that’s what they expected to happen. It’s obvious the Lakers cannot go to Dwight down the stretch in close games because he will not make his free throws when it matters most.

Antawn Jamison: C+

How much longer does Coach D plan on playing Antawn at the small forward position before he realizes how dumb it is? Anyone with eyes can see how much better Antawn plays when he’s at the power forward position and gets to post up in the paint rather than shooting 3-pointers that he can’t make.

Chris Duhon: C

Tough shooting night for Duhon, but that actually goes for every Laker tonight outside of Kobe. CD also got screwed by the infamous Joey Crawford late in the game on a bogus blocking foul.

Jordan Hill: B

J. Hill brought the energy inside the paint as usual tonight. Still curious to see how he will be used by Coach D’Antoni throughout the season.

Jodie Meeks: C-

With Devin Ebanks still locked in the dog house, Jodie really needs to prove to the coaching staff that he can be trusted to come in the game and let Kobe rest on the bench for an extended period of time. The main reason Kobe has to play so many minutes is because Jodie isn’t knocking down shots and can become a liability on the defensive end as well.