Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson is at a loss.
After a winless four-game road trip, Jackson tries to avoid matching his longest losing streak as an NBA head coach when the Lakers return home to face the Atlanta Hawks.
Los Angeles played abysmal defense on the trip, allowing almost 108 points per game.
“I don’t know what we do,” Jackson said. “On the flight home, I will make a decision and try to get these guys’ chin off the floor. They are feeling sorry for themselves.”
The four-game skid matches the Lakers’ worst from the last eight seasons. The only time Jackson endured a longer losing streak in 13-plus seasons as an NBA head coach came when he lost five straight with Chicago from Feb. 26-March 6, 1994.
O’Neal has missed the last three games with a strained right calf and will miss at least two more after an MRI Thursday revealed no serious damage, but he is experiencing significant swelling. Malone has been sidelined since Dec. 21 with a sprained knee and is on the injured list.
However, the Lakers looked lost in Tuesday’s 113-91 defeat in Denver.
Los Angeles shot just 38 percent and allowed the Nuggets to repeatedly drive to the basket, leading to their sixth straight road loss. Denver outrebounded the Lakers 60-37 and had a 17-2 advantage in second-chance points.
The Lakers will welcome a Hawks’ squad that is feeling pretty good about its recent play on the road.
Despite losing 105-89 in Sacramento on Tuesday, Atlanta is 2-2 on its six-game road trip.
The Hawks followed impressive road wins at Minnesota and Denver with a dismal start against the Kings, but hung around long enough to force Sacramento’s starters back into the game in the final minutes after cutting a 24-point deficit to 11.
“They came out blazing, hitting everything,” said Atlanta’s Shareef Abdur-Rahim, who had 19 points. “Against a team as good as the Kings, you have to come out focused and ready, especially on defense. I’m not sure we came believing we could come in here and win.”
Stephen Jackson also scored 19 points for the last-place Hawks, who have won their last two games against the Lakers at Staples Center.
STANDINGS (through Jan. 7): Hawks - 8th place, 16 1/2 GB, Central Division. Lakers - 2nd place, 2 1/2 GB, Pacific Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Hawks - Abdur-Rahim, 19.8 ppg and 9.6 rpg; Terry, 5.0 apg. Lakers - Bryant, 22.2 ppg; O’Neal, 11.6 rpg; Payton, 6.2 apg.
2002-03 SEASON SERIES: Tied, 1-1.
LAST MEETING: March 25, 2003. Lakers, 108-91. At Atlanta, Bryant scored 15 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter, including four straight 3-pointers to blow open a close game. Glenn Robinson scored 22 points and Terry handed out 16 assists.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Hawks - 5-16 on the road; Lakers - 15-2 at home.