Make no mistake, the Lakers' loss on Wednesday night — 104-99 to a Cavaliers team they'd beaten by 55 points only a month earlier — was absolutely not pretty.
The defending champions looked lazy on defense, they turned the ball over incessantly, and they couldn't hit a shot to save their lives. It was the kind of loss that embarrasses an entire franchise. It's a miracle Magic Johnson didn't call and ask to give back his five championship rings.
The Lakers lost to a Cavs team that's now won two games in their last three, and three in their last 40. Couple that with two other losses since they woke up Sunday morning, one at Orlando and the other at Charlotte, and it's just about time to cancel that June victory parade in Southern California.
Or not. Let's just relax for a second.
Yes, the Lakers are on a bit of a losing skid — six of their last 11, in fact, dating back to Jan. 28. But in the marathon 82-game season, slip-ups like this are to be expected.
Keep in mind that out of the Lakers' usual nine-man rotation, only two guys (Andrew Bynum and Shannon Brown, neither of whom usually plays in crunch time) are under the age of 30. The rest of them are fighting a particularly tough aging process, as offseason rest is hard to come by when you're playing every season through mid-June.
Since the beginning of the 2007-08 season, the Lakers have played a grand total of 370 games, including 67 grueling ones in the postseason. That's of course more than any other NBA team. That's a lot of wear and tear on aging ankles and knees, and it's also a lot of emotional distress to handle. The Lakers have made three consecutive deep playoff runs, almost certainly going on four, and they haven't had a moment to stop and breathe.
Inevitably, there are speed bumps. And it makes sense that a big one comes now, when the Lakers are already two-time defending champs and complacency has begun to sneak in.
When they're nearing the All-Star break, with all the festivities being held in their building, and all the distractions that come along with that.
When they've been on the road for seven straight games, not having played at their place in two full weeks.
When they're consumed by trade rumors, premature panic and endless other media scrutiny.
You get the point. This isn't the Lakers' time. They're built to win in June, but February is a different animal.
This is a rough patch in L.A., no doubt, but you have to trust it'll end soon enough. Which speaks louder — three straight losses, or three straight trips to the NBA Finals?