The Los Angeles Lakers are frustrated and embarrassed, but at least they might finally be getting healthy.
Following a three-day break, the Lakers hope to have two starters back in the lineup as they try to snap a six-game losing streak when they visit the Denver Nuggets on Thursday.
Just two weeks after coach Phil Jackson suffered the first six-game losing streak of his coaching career, Los Angeles (33-31) has done it again. The last three losses of this skid have been blowouts, including a 108-72 defeat to Dallas on Sunday, the Lakers’ worst home loss since moving to Los Angeles from Minneapolis in 1960.
Things could turn for the better on Thursday. Lamar Odom expects to play for the first time since suffering a torn labrum in his left shoulder on March 2, and Luke Walton might play for the first time since spraining his ankle on Jan. 28.
Those two have been missed, as was point guard Smush Parker on Sunday after he was ejected in the second quarter for picking up his second technical foul.
“Our team is not about having the best talent in the world. Our team is built on chemistry and guys knowing how to play together,” said Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, obviously frustrated. “So when you take three starters out of the lineup and insert guys who are new to these concepts, it makes it difficult.”
Bryant was assessed a flagrant foul 1 penalty by the NBA on Monday for elbowing Philadelphia’s Kyle Korver in the jaw during last Friday’s game, the third time he’s been disciplined by the league in the last two months. Jackson was upset by the NBA’s decision to go after his star player, second in the NBA in scoring behind Denver’s Carmelo Anthony.
“It shouldn’t even have been a flagrant 1,” Jackson said during Lakers practice on Tuesday. “That’s crazy. That’s a vendetta. They have a witch hunt going on. It’s nuts. Guys riding somebody. Everybody does that in this league.
“It’s just becoming a witch hunt now.”
The Lakers are just 13-20 away from home and went winless on a four-game road trip last week, but do have seven of their next nine at home after Thursday’s contest.
A loss in this contest would drop Los Angeles into a virtual tie with the Nuggets for sixth place in the Western Conference.
Denver (31-31) has won consecutive games, but nearly let an 18-point lead slip away in a 107-99 win over Portland on Tuesday in the opener of a three-game homestand.
“Our starts in the third quarter are awful,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “I wouldn’t even put that in a high school clinic. We come out non-focused, not running. I hope I don’t do that (bench the starters), because that could be really ugly. But that is how bad I think our third quarters have been.”
Allen Iverson had 31 points and 10 assists and Anthony finished with 29 points, but the Nuggets were outscored in the third quarter for the fourth straight game.
“If we knew as a team, we wouldn’t start off third quarters like that,” Anthony said. “We could’ve stepped up our defense a little more, but we won the game. It was an ugly game.”
The Nuggets haven’t won consecutive home games since Jan. 19 and 22. After concluding the homestand on Saturday against Phoenix, Denver plays eight of its next nine on the road.
Denver and Los Angeles play three times in the next month. The Lakers beat the Nuggets 123-104 at home on Jan. 5, but the teams have split their last six meetings.