- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
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CHICAGO -- The Los Angeles Lakers played game No. 41 of their 82-game schedule in near identical fashion to the way they've played most of their games in the first half of this nightmare of a season: fall down early; scramble to get back in the game; get close but not close enough because team cohesion and energy aren't quite there; and lose the game.
Same script, different darn day.
Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said before they played the Chicago Bulls on Monday that "good" teams in this league lose 26 games in a season, while "bad" teams only manage to win 26.
Well, in order for the 17-24 Lakers to become one of those "good" teams by way of D'Antoni's explanation, they have to go 39-2 over the second half of the year.
Good luck with that.
Here’s a look at the script from Chicago:
How it happened: The Lakers were able to erase an early 11-point deficit to tie the game at six heading into the fourth quarter. Then, it all fell apart. It was a one-possession game with a little more than four minutes remaining, then the Bulls had the lead back up to double digits in the blink of an eye as the Lakers' long-range shots clanked off the rim and Chicago's outside specialists were able to shoot freely against L.A. defenders who were slow to close out.
What it means: The first half of the season was a complete and utter disaster for this Lakers team. They are now 5-14 on the road, with a road-heavy second half of the schedule. It's tough to see them turning it around.
Hits: Steve Nash had 18 points on 7-for-12 shooting, along with six assists. Pau Gasol made the most of his new bench role, putting up 15 points and 12 rebounds as a substitute. And Earl Clark continued his inspired play with 12 points and eight boards.
Misses: After Dwight Howard was ejected Sunday in Toronto, the prevailing thought coming into Monday’s contest with Chicago was the big man would respond with a monster effort versus the Bulls. So much for that theory. During a wildly inconsistent season, Howard added to his puzzling personal tale, accounting for just six points, nine rebounds and two blocks, to go along with his four turnovers and five fouls in 30 minutes.
Kobe Bryant shot 7-for-22 from the field to bring his three-game shooting slump to a deplorable 25-for-79 (31.6 percent) from the field.
Injuries have been a constant refrain for the Lakers this season. But the Bulls were playing without Derrick Rose and Luol Deng. With Kirk Hinrich (22 points on 9-for-11 shooting, eight assists) and Jimmy Butler (10 points, eight rebounds and four assists in 44 energy-infused minutes), the Bulls' offense didn't skip a beat.
Stat of the night: The Bulls shot 9-for-17 from the 3-point line, while the Lakers shot 3-for-17.
What's next: The Lakers have Tuesday off as they travel to Memphis after an 0-2 back-to-back against Toronto and Chicago. They'll close out their three-game road trip against the Grizzlies on Wednesday. It doesn't get any easier after that, with seven out of L.A.'s next 10 games after Memphis coming away from Staples Center.
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.
1dMarc Stein and Ramona Shelburne