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Despite Milestones, Lakers a Hodgepodge

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Is it too late for the Lakers to go back to Bernie Bickerstaff? Things are not all right, the Lakers unable to hold onto fourth quarter leads. A lot of fingers are pointed at Dwight Howard's shitty free throw shooting.

At least for one day the Lakers managed to keep it together. Kobe Bryant became the fifth player in NBA history to score 30,000 points, and Ron Artest notched his 12,000th point. So it was nice that the Lakers got the easy 103-87 victory against the New Orleans Hornets.

It helped that Dwight Howard played less than four minutes in the final quarter not giving the Hornets any chance to play Hack-a-Howard. After missing 20 free throws in the last two games, it was pointed out as the reason the Lakers lost the last two games. Then again, according to head coach Mike D'Antoni, we probably don't have a clue what we're talking about.

Thankfully the bench extended the Lakers lead from 11 points to as many as 20 points to start off the final 12 minutes which allowed D'Antoni to hold off on Howard until 5:58 was left on the clock and the Lakers with the 92-74 lead.

That said, D'Antoni does have a point. On Sunday at home the Lakers gave up 40 points to the Orlando Magic on 67% shooting. Tuesday night in Houston the Rockets scored 34 points aided by 16 free throw attempts — the Rockets only missed three of those free throw shots. So the defense has its issues.

Then again the defense has always had its issues this season. It's the reason Mike Brown was jettisoned in favor of D'Antoni. And that's the problem with the Lakers.

The way this team has been constructed makes no sense. You have an offensive genius who likes to run heading a team that is too old to play with the tempo people are imagining. There's a defensive stopper in Howard who is still trying to reach 100% after back surgery. The bench is one of the lowest scoring in the league.

I want to say the Lakers will be okay in the long run, but there are no signs pointing towards cohesion. After Bickerstaff went 4-1 after Brown's firing D'Antoni has gone 4-9 since then, a regression that is frustrating. Perhaps Pau Gasol's bad knees and fractured psyche are more crucial in this equation.

Whatever it is there are a lot of holes, and the size of the marquee never covers them up fully. The Lakers aren't a good team right now, and that is reflected by their 9-10 record.

While their win against the 5-12 Hornets was good, let's just wait until they make a visit to Oklahoma City on Friday before we get carried away by this little victory.

Meanwhile the Clippers seemed to have reeled things back in after a particularly bad road trip that saw them lose three straight before losing to the Hornets at home to make it four. But with their 112-90 housing of the Dallas Mavericks, the Clippers have now reeled off four straight including a hard fought road victory in Utah on Monday.

The Clippers are the team with the dynamic offense and the stout defense. Even head coach Vinny Del Negro has been hard pressed to mess this up.

But you know the mantra. It's a long season. It's a marathon, not a sprint.