Lakers fall to Clippers, and so do our expectations

Harry How

After a 97-91 loss to the Clippers on Wednesday night, the Lakers off to their worst preseason start in franchise history. Is it time to worry?

Well, that was anticlimactic.

For those of us who don't have Time Warner Cable Sports yet (read: most of us), Wednesday night's game between the Lakers and Clippers was the first chance we've had to watch a highly touted and expectation laden 2012-13 Lakers squad from the comfort of our own couches, in HD, in real-time, without having to bootleg an internet TV feed or feed our joneses scattered Sportcenter and NBA TV highlights.

What we wanted was to see the starting five full of Hall of Famers we've heard and read so much about since Steve Nash signed with the Lakers in July and Dwight Howard came to L.A. in a trade two months ago. What we got was Robert Sacre, Jodie Meeks, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol and Nash. Sigh.

Wednesday night's battle of Staples Center tenants should have been a preseason preview of one of the NBA's most exciting and intriguing young rivalries, and a great opportunity for the Lakers to gauge their current worth against a quality opponent. What we got from that quality opponent was a lineup without Chris Paul, Jamal Crawford, Lamar Odom, Grant Hill and Chauncey Billups. And somehow that lineup managed to hand the Lakers their seventh loss of the preseason.

They're 0-7, you guys.

Should we worry? No. Not yet. With several new additions to the roster and parts of a new offense being implemented, this team is going to need time to gel. That's what the preseason is for. But with injuries to Kobe Bryant, Jordan Hill, Howard, they haven't had enough time with their key players in place to even begin to do so. (With Kobe slated to sit out the team's final preseason game on Thursday night, Sunday night's game against the Sacramento Kings will be the only preseason game in which the vaunted starting five was in action.) And now, with just one preseason game remaining, they'll be forced to learn on the fly during the regular season. That's not something that is going to happen overnight, expectations be damned. Metta World Peace might want to rethink that 73-win prediction, and Lakers fans might want to dial the old purple and gold bravado back a few notches.

What did we see on Wednesday night? One of the more preseasony preseason games. The Lakers came out of the gates flat and sloppy, like a hungover rec league team playing its second game. There were plenty of errant passes, clanked jumpers (many of which sounded like bald eagles flying into sliding glass doors), poor help defense (Ryan Hollins going HAM via baseline cuts), 20 turnovers, shaky transition defense and some disorganized offensive sets. Again, not things that can be cured overnight, but things that will take time to iron out, and yeah they're running out of time to iron those things out in games that don't count.

We also saw the 5000th re-run of quick-and-athletic-point-guard-absolutely-shreds-the-Lakers-defense, courtesy of Eric Bledsoe, who finished with 22 points, 11 assists and one steal shy of a triple double. Usually we see Lakers point guards and help defense get torched by Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo, Deron Williams, et al. Bledsoe has applied for immediate inclusion on that list.

And, as is often the case in games involving the Clippers, there were loads of dunks and lobs and feats of grandeur that generally make opponents look and feel inadequate as they try (and fail) to avoid being posterized.

Oh, and the "focused and driven" Metta World Peace made the guy who wrote this column look like a moron. He shot 4-of-14 from the field and 2-of-8 from beyond the arc.

Are you always this negative? No. Not really. There were some bright spots in the Lakers loss. Pau Gasol was Pau Gasol. He finished with 17 points and 8 rebounds, and did it quietly. (And softly. Blake Griffin is too much of a bull-in-a-china-shop for anyone in the NBA to handle physically, which means he turns Gasol into a rag doll on the regular. Case in point: Wednesday night.) Jordan Hill rebounded from a horrible start that saw him get worn out by Hollins and look awfully rusty (or exactly like a guy playing in his second preseason game might look), and finished with 12 points and eight rebounds on 5-of-8 shooting. Steve Blake was 3-of-4 from behind the arc and Robert Sacre finished with 13 points and seven rebounds while playing with the physicality of a guy who has two black eyes and was the last pick in the 2012 NBA Draft.

In closing, I leave you with this. The 2008 Detroit Lions went 4-0 in the preseason. They finished the regular season 0-16. Maybe the Lakers are flipping the script.

82 wins, anyone?

Tipoff for the Lakers final preseason game against the Sacramento Kings is scheduled for 7 p.m. PT at Valley View Casino Center and the game will be televised on that network that most of us don't get.

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