If there is one thing that drives Dwight Howard’s teammates crazy, it is the way he never seems to take anything seriously. He is always laughing, smiling and doing impersonations, regardless of what the situation is. This is what makes his demeanor on Thursday night so telling.
Howard’s Los Angeles Lakers traveled to take on the Milwaukee Bucks, the owners of the same eighth seed the Lakers are holding, just in the opposite conference. The Lakers had themselves a double-digit lead, but failed to hold on and found themselves leaving the arena with a loss.
A downcast Howard told the press after the game that they need to win the games they are supposed to win, and that they were supposed to win this game. The Lakers are closing in on the last few games of the season and despite being in a dog fight for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, they have now lost four of their last five games.
During Mike D’Antoni’s post game, he claimed they not only needed to win out, but that they had needed them all. The loss did not cost the Lakers their playoff spot on this night, but the coach made it clear that his team is running out of time and that another loss could bring their season to an abrupt stop.
The somber attitudes are likely being heightened by the pestering injury bug that has haunted the team like a disgruntled spirit. It appeared once again, this time tapping Steve Nash on his hip and hamstring.
Kobe Bryant was seen leaving on a crutch, nursing a foot bothered by a bone spur and is still recovering from an ankle sprain that kept him out of two games just days before. All of this comes just one day after the team learned that they had lost Metta World Peace to a torn knee ligament.
The injuries are frustrating, but what must be getting under the Lakers’ skin is the fact that they have been getting good production from their superstars.
Howard has pulled down 15-plus rebounds in 11 of the last 14 games and has been holding his own on the offensive side. Bryant continues to be the scoring machine he has always been, accounting for 30 of the Lakers points against the Bucks, but it came on 6 of 18 shooting. The shooting percentage is not ideal, but the end result makes up for it when Howard is pulling down this many boards to offset the misses.
Regardless, the Lakers are not getting the job done. They had six players in double-digits, and yet lost by 10 to a team that had lost four in a row and was in danger of losing their playoff spot as well.
Is this a situation where the Lakers unconsciously have fallen back into their ‘turn-it-on, turn-it-off’ mind-set? It is a staple of the Kobe Bryant era Lakers. That simply cannot be the thought process with this team, even if it is subconscious. The Lakers need to bring their absolute best every time they step on the court, and they need to maintain a sense of urgency throughout the entirety of their final matchups.
If they are to have any hope of getting in to the playoffs and further, the Lakers are going to need to give it all they have for the rest of the season. They will need to show the heart of a champion despite the weight that rests on their shoulders, and they absolutely must not be fazed by the injuries from here on out.
The Lakers cannot afford to lose another contest the rest of the way. They have finally reached the point when a single loss could be one too many.