It was humiliating. It was a new low when that didn’t seem possible. It was historical.
It was a matter of time.
In reality, something along the lines of the Lakers’ 142-94 loss to the Clippers on Thursday night had been coming for a long time. For most of the season, actually. The Lakers continuously have tempted fate by running out the kind of lineups they would use in an exhibition game.
Except this one counted. So when the Lakers went with the Kent Bazemore-Wesley Johnson-Pau Gasol-Jodie Meeks-Kendall Marshall look, with Robert Sacre, Ryan Kelly and Jordan Farmar getting the most minutes off the bench, last night — the largest margin of defeat in franchise history — is what happens.
That could be it for actual implications, though. Lakers’ backers who are seething this morning might not want to hear that. Fans of every other team laughing away may not want to believe it. But 142-94, and an 84-point margin of defeat in the last two flailing attempts at the Clippers, does not tell a besieged front office anything it didn’t already know.
There will be major changes to the roster in the summer. Those were coming anyway.
Yes, these are the kinds of losses that get a coach fired. Except, again: Bazemore, Johnson, Gasol, Meeks, Marshall, Sacre, Kelly, Farmar. That crew playing against the surging Clippers, a team challenging for the West’s top spot.
Every indication from management is that coach Mike D’Antoni is safe because an October lineup is no way to judge a coach. The Lakers, in fact, were seen by many to have overachieved in the first quarter of the season while waiting for Kobe Bryant to return from his torn Achilles’ tendon. That backing came with the Lakers headed for their first sub-.500 finish since 2004-05.
Could one game change that support?
That one Thursday night could. But there’s a very good chance that owner Jim Buss and GM Mitch Kupchak, the men at the top of basketball operations, understand that the same thing would have happened with someone else on the sideline. They know this because the actual worst losses in Lakers history came with the likes of Pat Riley and Phil Jackson as coach.
This was only the worst statistical defeat, after all, not the worst worst. The Memorial Day Massacre in Game 1 of the 1985 Finals was lower, and that made the eventual series win by the Lakers, capped in the same Boston Garden, sweeter. The shame of the Game 4 loss to the Mavericks in the semifinals of the 2011 playoffs, when the Lakers lost their composure and the series, was more embarrassing. There are others.
The greatest Lakers wins can’t come in March. Neither can the most painful losses. It doesn’t work that way around the organization.
For now, there are only words. As Bryant recently told a Los Angeles radio station, Power 106, speaking of the season in general:
“This year, we all know it’s been a real tough year for us, right? So what I’d like everybody to do is to really just sit back and just absorb this year. Take it all in. Sit back and watch and listen and hear all the hate that’s being thrown at us and remember every person that’s kicking you when you’re down, because next year it ain’t gonna be this way.
“Appreciate it now. Let it sit in now, because revenge is sweet and it’s quick.”
Well, at least it’s sweet.