Lakers in 2011: From Champs to Chumps?

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While the holidays was great time for touchy-feely moments, the last couple of weeks hasn't been good for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Since the week of December 20, 2010, the Lakers' record is 2-4. The defending champs are sporting a .333 winning percentage at a time when their competition (the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat in the East, plus the Dallas Mavericks and the San Antonio Spurs in the West) have compiled pretty good records.

Given the high expectations for the team, the Lakers are looking more like chumps than champs.

What's ailing the team?

If you ask me it's a bit surprising that it's in the offensive end that the Lakers have shown lackluster effort. In the last six games, the Lakers have only averaged only 88.5 points. This is very far from their season average of almost 104 points per game.

The losses, the Lakers looked enamored with the outside shot-- preferring to look to shoot the three-ball than pound the ball in side. I wouldn't blame the Lakers completely for doing so because Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum have not been that dominating in the paint.

The play of Kobe Bryant has also not been up to par. Yes, he is scoring like Kobe Bryant of old, but his other numbers like rebounds, assists, and shooting percentage have been up and down. He can dominate any part of the game, but he can't seem to will the Lakers to victory in the last few games. I suggest Phil Jackson manage Kobe's minutes back into the 28-32 range and play Lamar Odom more.

Finally, (I know I'm going to make this sound a cliche), but the Lakers have not been putting the clamps on the defensive end, especially in the second half. To whit: in the last five games, the Lakers have allowed their opponents to score more in the second half than the first half.

If this trend creeps into the All-Star break, we're looking at the Lakers sporting a playoff exit ticket rather than a three-peat.