If anyone thought that Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol coming back to give the Los Angeles Lakers their “dream team” look once again, joining Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Metta World Peace, think again. The road to the playoffs which seemed to be suddenly turning right for them took another bad turn with a surprising home loss no one accounted for, making things for the big finish a lot more complicated.

Pau Gasol hasn’t played an NBA game since February 5. Upon his return, playing next to Dwight Howard, nothing really changed. He still had to take most of his shots from the outside and looked like someone who shouldn’t be playing in this kind offense. Yes, it was his first game in almost two months, but nothing’s really changed from the earlier, bad days of the season, when it was clear the combination of Gasol and Howard isn’t going to work.

So the Lakers played in their dream lineup, full for the first time in months, and lost 103-100 to the Wizards, at home. Yes, they’re still at 8th in the West, while the Jazz lost again and the Mavs and Blazers still have some catching up to do. But if anyone thought it’s going to be smooth sailing once they were in the top 8 position, it’s probably the exact opposite.

Kobe Bryant also made his return, hoping to be the inspiration once again after the drubbing the Lakers had to take in Phoenix. He had a quiet game, with some late game heroics and disappointments, finishing with 21 points and 11 assists on 8-18 from the field. His three pointer with two seconds left put the Lakers only one point behind, but John Wall made two free throws, barely leaving Bryant time to take a desperate shot from near the sidelines that didn’t go in.

Dwight Howard didn’t mind the return of Pau Gasol – he scored 20 points on 8-9 from the field, while even making 80% of his free throw attempts. Alas, when you don’t play defense, even against one of the worst teams in the NBA, you’re probably going to lose, especially with a rusty looking offense.

It’s a disturbing loss, and we’re upset about it. Our defensive intensity slipped a great deal in the second half, and they took advantage of it. We messed up on rotations and left guys wide open. All of a sudden they were in the game. We stopped hustling on certain plays. You can’t allow a guy to take a wide-open shot. It was one thing after another.

This was only the sixth time this season that the Lakers had all of their planned starting five actually starting a game. Their record when playing all of them from the tip off? 0-6. Maybe it doesn’t mean anything, but it probably does. All the complaints about being old and simply not playing as a team through tough stretches don’t always appear, but when the entire roster is available  maybe overly relying on others to do your job is costing the Lakers some dear possessions, which might cost them the playoff spot in the end if they’re a little too careless.

I can’t explain it, but every time we get up 16, it’s like, ‘Well, we’re really good and we don’t have to play hard,’ and we start messing with the game. When you start messing with not moving the ball, messing with ‘I’m just going to go one-on-one every time,’ and you start messing with the basketball gods, they will get you. If we don’t change that, we obviously won’t make the playoffs.

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