No long winning streaks at the end of the season could do it. Being blown out of arenas wasn’t cutting it either. Inspirational talks by Derek Fisher? Check. The return of Kobe Bryant’s shooting prowess? Check. Exciting buzzer beating victories to highlight their season? Check. What is there left to do for this team to just play… well?

Are injuries the greatest factor in this team’s demise, really? It’s true that the Lakers have experienced more than their fair share of injuries this season, to half the players on their roster, and at different times and for various lengths in the season.

On this road trip, however, they’re missing only two players to injury — Luke Walton, who has been out for months, and Andrew Bynum, who has been out for 5 games but, in essence, is not an unfamiliar situation. Injuries certainly don’t help a team’s strength, but they don’t have to weaken it either.

In the first quarter against the Hawks, the Lakers looked alert, energetic and ready to play. Ron Artest hounded his prey for the evening, Joe Johnson, and Kobe wasted no time, taking grasp of his offensive opportunities at will. It was obvious early in the game, however, that win or lose, the Lakers would suffer from another opponents’ perimeter shooting capabilities. The most discouraging sight was just how open those shooters were.

The Lakers (maybe until this road trip) rank first in defending the three-point shot. Tonight, however, they showed just how flawed that stat must to be. Atlanta’s shooters appeared to be open every single time they made an attempt from downtown. They made 9-22 for 41%, but defense against the three (or defense in general) was not the only issue.

The Atlanta Hawks are team of young veteran players and a well-seasoned coach. They have the third best record in the east and are filled to the brim with the talents of Joe Johnson (25 points, 8 assists), Josh Smith (12 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists), and the leading candidate for Sixth Man of the Year, Jamal Crawford (14 points).

What they and their team showed tonight, on the floor, on the bench, is something the Lakers haven’t shown in a long while – enthusiasm.

Yes, the Lakers collected 17 assists on 33 made field goals and had only 11 turnovers, a vast improvement from previous games.

Pau Gasol started strong, finished with a double-double, 16 points and 11 rebounds. Jordan Farmar, in a welcome, though belated surge, hit 4 three-pointers to finish the evening with 16 points. Though Kobe was not technically “alone” in this game, however, there is something so obviously “wrong” with this Lakers team. They appear, lately, too tired to fight back.

Is that it? They’re tired after such a long season? Are they feeling discouraged? The team of a year ago would stare down these injuries, feelings of fatigue, and doubt. The Lakers of last season numbed themselves to pain, ignored their tired bodies, and turned a deaf ear and blind eye to any evidence of doubt. This season’s team? It’s hard to decipher.

Before the game, John Ireland interviewed Derek Fisher and, in kinder words, asked him, “What’s wrong with you guys?” Derek replied, “Anything that you try to accomplish or achieve that is of such a high nature, what is considered to be great, there is going to be adversity, there is going to be struggle. And those that have gotten the job done, are the ones that could still see the mission through it.”

Mission? Check. Adversity, struggle? Check. Achievement of a high nature? To be determined.

Pre-game Thoughts: Must. Stay. Positive.

Half-time Thoughts: 45-55 Hawks. Kobe — 20, Rest of Team – 25

Most Thoughtless Player(s) of the Game: Let’s not go there.

Most Thought-filled Player(s) of the Game: Kobe Bryant, again, for trying to compensate for his teammates, finished with 28 points and 4 assists.

  • KaNa

    when are the bench going to relaize that they suck really bad…. and this game lamar, fish, gasol and 90% of the bench are so right wasting the fans money….

    • lakermarc

      Seriously about half the Laker team is quite honestly, throwaway junk. Other teams have made wise decisions and have picked up on good players meanwhile the Lakers stood around ARROGANT that they were fine the way they were and that's simply not true. April wil unveil alot of disappointyment for L.A., I'm sorry to say.

  • Marwan Marzina

    To be honest, if I was going for another team (which will never happen, Laker fan forever), I wouldn't even be worried about playing Lakers anymore. I just can't see them as a threat anymore, and its a pain to say that cause I love this team but what I said is the truth

    • lakermarc

      That's true and all of the other teams seem to look at it the same way. That means alot.

    • LakersMike31

      Agreed. Teams are licking their chops when it's time to play the Lakers. They're the Duke of the NBA. Everyone loves to beat them because of the national coverage they get. And it makes it even more fun when they're not very good. And this team just isn't very good right now.

    • B Holland

      You smokin some raspy weed Dude. I know the teams in the NBA don't feel the same way.

  • keepon_keepinon18

    I really think Andrew Bynum is the piece that is missing right now. The Lakers aren't doing as well as they did the previous years without him mainly because Lamar isn't producing big numbers in Drew's absence and Pau isn't playing as well as he did a season to two ago. Drew coming back should stabilize the rebounding and defense.
    One good thing today is that the Lakers, especially Farmar, got some of their outside touch back.

    • Sean All Ivy

      I agree. There is no way the Hawks could have shut down our O with Bynum in there along with Pau because they wouldn't be able to send a quck double team to stop Pau in the key. I also agree that Lamar is a better player coming off the bench. No need to over react on this one. Our position is set as #2 in the league and #1 in the west. The playoffs are an entirely different story,

      • lakermarc

        Are you serious? Part of what made the Lakers so mighty last year was that alot of the guys were out at some point for one injury or another and the others were able to pick up the slack. This team is not the same and don't expect some magic wand to wave over this sick and decrepid team and make something happen…..so sad, really.

    • lakermarc

      I agree but only slightly.

  • lakermarc

    Wow! The dillusions continue.

  • crisp

    Does no one comment anymore? There used to be a lot…

    • jonb

      were just tired of repeating ourselves, that of course because of the lakers subpar play all season; same old same old….

  • trippleocho

    The OKC Thunder have a better road record than us? :(

  • T-Dub

    Honestly, this Lakers team has only 5 playerswho are worth anything. Kobe, Gasol, Odom, Artest, Bynum(sometimes). This team is a product of Phil Jackson and Mitch. Those five guys are worn out at the end of the season beacuse there's no one to relieve them! The next 7 players are garbage who probably couldn't even make other teams in the league yet they all get extensions from Phil and Mitch???? Although alot of you are in denial, the chickens have come home to roost. This sorry bench has finally been exposed for what I always knew they were…worthless! Lakers a deep team? Who ever decided that? These two guys (Phil and Mitch) are responsible for what's here so time to deal with it and except it. Time for fresh new blood and philosophy…BRING IN BYRON SCOTT!!!!!!!!! Phil, time to RETIRE!!!!

  • Craig_J

    This would be more discouraging if bynam were playing but he wasn't so i'm holding on to hope for dear life!! KObe seems to be the only one playing with heart. i don't know whats wrong with this Lakers team, but we gotta shape up..and FAST!!!!!

  • LakersMike31

    Now, let me preface this by stating that I absolutely love the Lakers. I always have, and I always will. But these poor Lakers, and us poor fans. I think we are all certainly guilty of delusions of grandeur. I think the key to understanding this Lakers team is coming to grips with the fact that they overachieved last season. They were exposed in the finals against Boston a couple of years ago for who they REALLY are. Then, miraculously, they channeled their embarassment, frustration, egoism, etc., and went on an absolute tear last year that concluded with them winning the finals (against a team that WAS NOT THE BEST IN THE EAST, by the way). So, we blindly loved them, and believed they could do it again, as did they. But alas, this effort was not sustainable. Sooner or later, they would have to come back to Earth, for what goes up, must come down. It appears sooner has won out. This Laker team was over-hyped from the beginning of the season. They have an aging superstar who is beginning to look more and more frail with every passing game, a second-best player who had previously been a perennial loser, an injury-prone center who is delusioinal about his own self-worth, a point guard who should be sitting in a suit on the bench with the rest of the coaching staff, and a sixth man who is touted as one of the most talented in the game, and earns millions upon millions of dollars, yet can't find a way to bring it every night. What the Lakers have, is a recipe for disaster. My prediction: a lot of angry Laker fans will be swarming this site at some point during these playoffs. It's plain to see. They're JUST…NOT…THAT…GOOD. My hope is that they can find some magic again for the playoffs, and over-achieve again. But, unfortunately, one of their best magicians now plays for another team.

  • Anthony

    I don’t know that bringing in Heinrich would have made a huge difference, but I think it would have been a good move. How many of these sorry ass bench players really do anything anyways?

    Heinrich would have brought hunger with him too. Apart from Artest (who is still lacking) there is no hunger among the team. If they don’t want it the Cavs will be crowned this years champions.

    Where is the almighty Lakers “switch” now?

  • Won A Ring For The King

    Los Angeles Lakers record on this road trip: 2-3, as accurately predicted here by this humble poster.
    I'll be accepting apologies from: Mr. Marwan Marzina and a poster by the name of “Chillaz”.
    Good day. Cavs in 6.

    • LakersMike31

      Cavs in 6? You don't think Denver/Dallas will take them to 7? haha

  • bigshotbob

    I figured it out. The last few games have been one big April Fools joke on all of us fans. Good one Lakers, you got us pretty good.

  • hoop247

    i remember when scoop jackson wrote to M. Joardan. I would like to call this letter Hoop to Kobe. first off i like to start with why the f@#* doesn't any one on the team besides kobe and lamar, yeah F#%# Pau soft ass bitch i hope he would play like a champ again like last year, play with a sense of urgency. They are just on the floor walking, wth? famar should not deserve to have his first name as jordan because that foo can't play with the team and defend everyother guards in the league, he has no defense. Derek, don't get me started, just hit the open three please ( he needs to practice alone alot more). Shannon brown, he used to be my second fav. player off the bench. Now he doesn't play his game anymore, missing layups come on shannon u r not farmar. Sasha is a piece of broken machine. Why can't he play D like he used to and hit threes like he used to. Maybe staying in LA too long and going out with Maria Sharapova makes him want to quit basketball. but maybe again he should by the way hes playing now. The rest of the team needs to learn how to make free throw and that includes u to kobe (GOAT). I would like to see some more dunk posters from mamba. Also maybe everyone on the team can actually run down the court and play lakers basketball, thanks. And on the defensive side, can people please stay on your man and actually contest shots. We as a team are being outrun by other teams. Thats embarrassing. Andrew Bynum, please stop getting injured and play with more fire power. Pau Gasol, i really liked him since he was traded to the lakers. But this year, he doesn't dunk anymore. Stop making people call you Soft, Pau. Come on u r better than that. Just rise up as high as you can, put your body out and dunk the ball as hard as you can. Dunk the ball as if the rim had talked about your mama and had an affair with your girl. Kobe (GOAT) please, can you please make sure that finger doesn't bother you anymore and dunk and score on people like you used to. I know its hard to ask because you are injured, but don't be afraid to draw charges or fouls on those punks that think they can guard you. As a life long lakers fan, i would like to say play more smoother, tougher, and just make sure the whole team is having fun because the game should be fun and no matter what winning is the most important thing. WE ARE THE LAKERS AND WINNING IS A MUST NOT AN OPTION.

  • showtime4eva

    this new set up sucks