Despite 42 points from Bryant and 19 points and 20 rebounds from Dwight Howard, the Lakers were unable to overcome a lethargic start that left them with a 15-point halftime deficit.
The team, built for championship contention right now, appears to be in for a dog fight for even a postseason berth. At 9-13, the Lakers are off to their worst start since the 2002-03 season.
The effects of those losses are starting to take their toll.
Bryant told Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register that this has been "the toughest stretch" of his career. Bryant added that the team's tumultuous start has been "baffling," considering the talent on the roster.
With Pau Gasol still sidelined, there's no obvious scapegoat.
Clearly searching for answers, a dumbfounded Bryant couldn't identify the cause of their woes:
Bryant's play to date has kept him entrenched in the MVP race, but the frustratingly inconsistent efforts from his teammates have been...well...frustrating:
Kobe cursed so much post-game I thought I was watching the Emergency Broadcasting System for a second.— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) December 12, 2012
Consider Bryant's reactions mild compared to what coach Mike D'Antoni fired off in his postgame remarks. When pressed for comments on the team's defensive woes by T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times, a fed up D'Antoni showed the kind of passion that his team has lacked.
It's still too early to panic. Even for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Gasol's not healthy. Steve Nash is still sidelined for "at least another two weeks" (according to David Leon Moore of USA Today). And D'Antoni is still instituting his system, notably without the luxury of a training camp.
Things could still turn around for this team; the 2002-03 Lakers responded to their sluggish start by winning 50 games in the regular season. But that isn't going to make these struggles any easier to stomach.
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