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Sunday, December 9, 2012
Updated: December 10, 3:36 AM ET
As bad as it gets?

By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com

LOS ANGELES -- The depths of despair seem to know no bottom this season for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Think three coaches in the first 15 games while passing on Phil Jackson was uneasy?

Think Dwight Howard giving away games with brick after brick from the free throw line was brutal?

Think those poison-pill 35-plus-point quarters that the Orlando Magic, Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder hung on them should have taught the Lakers to stem the tide by now?

Think Steve Nash's leg and Pau Gasol's knees and Steve Blake's abdomen hurt?

What truly hurts right now is watching this Lakers team that didn't show up Sunday in an embarrassing 117-110 loss to the Utah Jazz.

Kobe Bryant
"We're just giving up too many transition points," Kobe Bryant explained. "We just have to have better floor balance."
This isn't meant to be a slight against the Jazz, which are now 12-10 and have a deep nine-man rotation playing hard for coach Tyrone Corbin. But if the Lakers can't find it in them to win a game like that on Sunday, what can they win?

"Umm, you know, we're not very good right now," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said after his team was outscored 54-34 in the paint and gifted 25 points to Utah off of 14 turnovers.

How bad is it for the Lakers?

D'Antoni sounded more like Dante Alighieri before the game when describing the inferno his team has found itself in.

"As you're going through hell, you got to keep going," D'Antoni said.

Only the heat intensified after the game from whatever direction the Lakers are going these days.

The Lakers returned home over the weekend after a disappointing 1-2 road trip with a much-needed victory in their sights to get themselves right before heading back on a plane with their 2-6 road record to play four more in a row away from Staples Center. They were given the day off on Saturday to get fresh. They had a simple duty to defend home court against a Jazz team that already embarrassed them earlier in the season up in Utah, which led to Mike Brown's firing.

And they failed.

"It's baffling," said Chris Duhon.

"I just can't put my finger on it," added Howard.

The easy answer to point toward is defense.

"We're giving up a lot of points in transition," Kobe Bryant said. "The half-court defense is OK. We're just giving up too many transition points. We just have to have better floor balance."

At times this season the transition defense could be blamed on too many turnovers. That was part of the problem Sunday, no doubt, but D'Antoni admitted that it also just came down to effort -- effort that was supposedly found in the silver lining to the loss in Oklahoma City on Friday that apparently didn't make it back with them to L.A. from the Midwest.

"We're not doing it. We're not running back. We're not doing the little things," D'Antoni said. He later added: "We have too many guys that will take a possession off."

All those little things that are being neglected have resulted in a big hole for the 9-12 Lakers that are 11th place in the West when, of course, only eight teams from the conference make the playoffs.

The Lakers are running out of excuses, cashing in all of their get-out-of-jail cards before even Christmas.

Yes, the team has missed Nash, but Duhon's 12 points on 4-for-6 shooting and 11 assists Sunday is about as good of a Nash fill-in as anyone can hope for.

Even D'Antoni stopped beating the drum as Nash as a cure-all before the game, admitting that Nash wouldn't do anything to help a defense that has allowed an average of 112.8 points per game during their past four losses.

"[Waiting for Nash] also might be my way of putting it off that right now we've got some problems that we need to solve," D'Antoni said.

Said Duhon: "We have the talent that can score points anytime. We just don't play D."

The Lakers' talent is the tantalizing quotient to this whole equation. There's no way they're scrutinized to the level and degree they are on a nightly basis if it wasn't for that near $100 million payroll and championship aspirations.

But how bad does it have to get before they start to show something for it?

"We're too good of a team to let everything slip away here," Howard said. He later added: "We're going to get it. It's going to click one day and then all this mess will be over with."

What evidence does the Lakers have showing that miracle is waiting beyond the muck?

"I just don't think we've had a gut-checking moment, yet," D'Antoni said. "At some point we're going to have to draw a line in the sand and that's it. You got to fight. And we're not doing it."

They've certainly seem to have taken enough punches to the gut already this season. If they haven't put their fists up yet, when will they ever do it?