Updated: January 21, 2013, 2:34 AM ET

1. Different Country, Same Problems For Lakers

By James Herbert
ESPN.com/TrueHoop Network

TORONTO -- To watch the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday was to see familiar sights: untouched opposing cutters, contested Kobe Bryant jumpers, frustrated faces and an unfavorable final score. It happened to be against the Toronto Raptors this time.

"It doesn't have anything to do with the other teams," Lakers head coach Mike D'Antoni said. He said it after his team lost 108-103 at the Air Canada Centre. It was the Lakers' eighth loss in 10 games, dropping their record to 17-23. As exactly no one predicted to start the season, Los Angeles is 11th in the West and three games out of the playoffs.

"It's got to do a lot with us," a dispirited D'Antoni said.

The Lakers dug themselves a hole in Toronto, giving up an early 11-0 run and trailing by as many as 16 in the first quarter. They had flown in from L.A. the day before for a game starting at 10 a.m. Pacific time but, to Steve Nash, that is not an excuse. "If anything, it's a warning sign," he said.

Steve Nash
Tom Szczerbowski/USA TODAY SportsSteve Nash's return to Canada was a total loss.

"We should have come out fired up to combat that and fight through it, and tonight we kind of gave into that a little bit and weren't quite in the building right away," said Nash. "It's frustrating because we know what's at stake for this team."

It's fair to look at the offense and, specifically, Kobe Bryant's 26 points on 10-for-32 field goal shooting with six turnovers -- Bryant took the blame for the loss talking to reporters and his Twitter followers -- but, as usual with the Lakers, that is missing the main point. Bryant's many misfires certainly contributed to the end result, but Los Angeles scored well enough to win. The problem is that, as it has been seen all season, the Lakers couldn't get stops when they needed them.

The Lakers allowed the Raptors to shoot 46-for-84 (54.8 percent) from the floor and gave up 52 points in the paint to a team that averages 36, fourth-fewest in the league. Thirty of those came after Dwight Howard was ejected with 1:18 left in the second quarter. While Howard elected not to address it after the game, both Bryant and Metta World Peace expressed their displeasure with the official's decision to give Howard his second technical.

Howard finished with five points and two rebounds in seven minutes, but his presence was missed mostly on the defensive end.

"Once you see Dwight down there blocking shots, it kind of discourages the other team to drive the ball down there," said Earl Clark. "When he's gone, it's just a layup special."

"I think tonight we were a little lazy. We were cutting corners," said Nash, who said that the answers to the Lakers' problems lie with the little things.

"Instead of being tight to somebody, we're a step off," said Nash. "Instead of being exactly where you're supposed to be, you're a step or two away so you're caught in between."

Some, perhaps even most, of the Lakers' problems can be attributed to external factors -- the new players, the injuries to their stars, the coaching change that took place five games into the season -- but the schedule is not forgiving. Monday's game against the Chicago Bulls will mark the halfway mark of the season. If the Lakers need time, it is not on their side.

"It's a frustrating loss, and I will say that there has definitely been urgency here," said Nash, who then laughed as he added, "in theory."

"Today wasn't that urgent," Nash continued. "But I have to say, the guys -- today wasn't a great performance -- but the guys have come in every day, had a good attitude, worked together and tried to support each other. We're just not finding any consistent love out of our group, and we've just gotta keep plugging away."

With unmet expectations and constant criticism, those in the locker room are trying to remain optimistic, confident, together. "It's not as bad as it looks," Bryant said.

"We still believe in ourselves," said World Peace, who spent much of his scrum preaching positive energy, including an elaborate analogy to the movie "Avatar." "We're still positive. When you're on that court, that's all you have is coaches and players. Sometimes it clicks, and sometimes it doesn't, and you have to own it. So I can't give you no excuse, I'm a part of this and everybody else is a part of this and you have to own it. You have to."

The best thing for the Lakers might be that they're forced to move on instead of dwelling on yet another low point in a season full of them.

"It'll seem like a year and a half before we play Chicago," D'Antoni said. "But I'll get over that."

James Herbert's work appears on Hardwood Paroxysm. Follow him @outsidethenba

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