Kobe Bryant, Chris Kaman

When the Los Angeles Lakers were doing something that remotely looked like building a team to this season, one question kept popping in everyone’s mind: Who is going to play defense for them? It turns out no one will, and the absence of Kobe Bryant, this time, has nothing to do with this colossal failure.

So how bad are the Lakers on defense? The latest example of Mike D’Antoni basketball came in the form of a 114-105 loss to the Orlando Magic. The Lakers can score because they play fast basketball and they have players who can score: Pau Gasol (21 points), Jodie Meeks (17 points) and Nick Young (16 points). Kendall Marshall has the chance to put up impressive passing numbers (14 assists against the Magic, 9.3 per game this season), but that’s where it ends.

The Lakers are 29th in the NBA, allowing 105.8 points per game; 17th in allowed field goal percentage with 45.5% from the field and are also the worst rebounding team in the NBA, grabbing only 47% of the available rebounds in a game. In defensive efficiency, they aren’t too shabby either, ranked 26th in the NBA, giving up 1.052 points per possession.

They’ve lost 15 of their last 18 games; The last time they’ve given up less than 100 points was 13 games ago on December 31, losing 94-79 to the Milwaukee Bucks. The last time they had a decent offensive performance and allowed less than 100 points was back on December 20, beating the Minnesota Timberwolves. It’s been that hard for them stopping teams, and it has to do more with bad coaching, the kind that makes teams look incompetent on defense, than with tired legs; which is what D’Antoni and his players would want you to believe.

Mike D'Antoni

The Explanations

Mike D’Antoni: The guys wanted to do it, but they didn’t have the legs. We ran out of gas and when you’re tired, you’re not real smart. That’s what happened tonight. We didn’t play with a lot of poise. 

Nick Young: I came here saying ‘I’m going to be tired today’ and I was. We’ve been fighting this whole road trip, but I can honestly say this is one of the games we let up a bit. We just lost that focus.

Back to reality

Few teams if any have been hurt by injuries like the Lakers. Not just Kobe Bryant, but Xavier Henry is injured and he’s been very important to them this season. Steve Blake, who was probably the team’s best player when they were still around .500 earlier this season, Steven Nash, Jordan Farmer. The Lakers have been plagued by them this season, almost all focusing on one position.

But the Chicago Bulls have been in the same position and they usually don’t look sad and lost. There’s fighting spirit, there’s belief they can do it even without their best players. Maybe it comes with familiarity, but it has a lot to do with coaching and knowing what to do with your players. D’Antoni and his staff might know how to draw X and O’s for Marshall and the offense to do well with the ball, but they’re not that good with it to make up for the absolute joke they look like defensively on too many nights.

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