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Phillip Barnett —  February 17, 2011

From Tom Withers, Lakers.com: The Lakers hit the All-Star break broken. Looking nothing like two-time defending NBA champions, they dropped their third straight game, a stunning 104-99 loss Wednesday night to the Cleveland Cavaliers – the league’s worst team, which avenged a 55-point embarrassment against Los Angeles last month. Ramon Sessions came off the bench and scored a season-high 32 points for the Cavs, who were beaten 112-57 by the Lakers on Jan. 11. That loss was No. 11 in a league-record streak that eventually reached 26 before Cleveland ended it last week with an overtime win against L.A.’s less-heralded squad, the Clippers. Pau Gasol had 30 points and 20 rebounds for the Lakers.

From Mark Medina, LA Times: With their heads slumped, the Lakers walked off the court of Quicken Loans Arena with no reasons to stop staring at the ground. The Lakers with their 104-99 loss Wednesday to the Cleveland Cavaliers concluded a seven-game trip at 4-3, marked their third consecutive defeat and erased any positive feelings coming out of their 4-0 start, including a signature victory over the Boston Celtics. The Lakers enter the All-Star break with plenty of things to correct, but with no practice time to do it. And those believing a few days off could help the team rest are forgetting that there are plenty of the festivities surrounding All-Star weekend in Los Angeles. It’s debatable that the Lakers’ loss to Cleveland would have more significant long-term implications than their much-needed victory against Boston, but that’s not how the Lakers should think right now.

From Mark Whicker, OC Register: The end of the Lakers’ trip revealed a team that appears to be at the end of the line. With Ramon Sessions taking the ball anywhere he wanted on the way to 32 points Wednesday night, Cleveland improved its NBA-worst record to 10-46 with a 104-99 upset of a Lakers team that had pounded the Cavaliers by 55 on Jan. 12. That’s three consecutive losses on a seven-game trip that began with four consecutive victories. In this one the Lakers wasted Pau Gasol’s first-ever 30-point, 20-rebound game and watched a scrambling last-minute comeback fall short.

From John Krolik, Pro Basketball Talk: It’s safe to say that the All-Star Break couldn’t be coming at a better time for the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers lost the last three games of their recent seven-game road trip, and their struggles culminated in a shocking loss to the woeful Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night. The 10-46 Cavaliers were coming off a 15-point home loss to the Washington Wizards, and had not won a game in regulation since November 27th, 2010, but looked like the superior team against the defending champions. The Lakers looked tired, disinterested, and frustrated throughout the game. Kobe Bryant picked up an early technical in the first quarter, and looked completely out of sorts all night; he shot 8-24 from the field, did not draw a single foul, turned the ball over seven times, and sealed his team’s fate by forcing quick threes late in the game.

From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: After four strong wins to start their seven-game trip, a setback against a talented and increasingly desperate Orlando Magic team Sunday afternoon was fairly easy to swallow. Losing by 20 the next evening in Charlotte, the Lakers’ fourth game in five days and sixth in a long trip, with a flu-ridden Kobe Bryant in a place they (for reasons scientists will spend the next three decades trying to determine) historically struggle was undeniably ugly, but at least able to be explained away. This despite a 122-character, fully tweetable postgame media meeting in which Phil Jackson said he was “embarrassed” by the team’s performance.  But in a season already marred with more losses against sub-.500 teams than in all of 2009-10, with only two wins in eight tries against the NBA’s top five squads, nothing papers over Wednesday’s 104-99 loss to a Cavaliers squad that entering the game had dropped 37 of its previous 39 games, including a 55-point loss to the Lakers at Staples Center. Even the most purple and gold of Pollyannas probably were throwing shoes through their flatscreens.

From Dexter Fishmore, Silver Screen and Roll: Putting tonight’s loss in perspective requires more words than have been invented in the English language. If, rather than playing a game of basketball tonight, the Lakers had instead broken into the homes of every one of their fans and taken a huge dump on our living room floors, we’d all have had a more enjoyable evening. If there were a UN Tribunal for Crimes Against Basketball, nearly every person on the Lakers payroll would be locked up and awaiting trial in The Hague. It’s tempting to say the season has hit rock bottom, but you know, I’m done underestimating the ability of this team to plumb new depths of embarrassment. We’re going to hear about this loss all season long, and possibly further. As well we should. If the Celtics or Heat had faceplanted this egregiously, we’d never stop reminding their fans of it, so there’s no real option here other than to endure all the mockery hurled our way. Nothing but another championship will erase this stain.

From Mark Medina, LA Times: Advocating for mental health has produced all kinds of trickle effects for Ron Artest.His visit last fall to Eastmont Intermediate School to speak about mental health issues led to him being awarded the keys to the city of Las Vegas in recognition of his charitable efforts and public service announcement. His decision to raffle off his championship ring raised over $600,000 for charities. And his willingness to speak out on the issue earns him an appearance Thursday in Washington, where he will be highlighting, on behalf of Rep. Grace F. Napolitano (D-Norwalk), the merits of the proposed Mental Health in Schools Act, which would provide $200 million in funding. The timing of Artest’s appearance isn’t exactly perfect, considering the Lakers’ 104-99 loss Wednesday to the league’s worst team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, a game in which he went zero for one from the field in only 17 minutes of play. It also doesn’t jibe well with the ongoing concern that Artest is stretching himself too thin and has mixed priorities, the latest being his tweet half an hour after the game to promote his new mixtape. But in fairness, the Washington appearance was set up a while ago and it falls on All-Star weekend.

From Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: The day after the NBA got a new record-holder for 3-point field goals — the perpetually in motion Ray Allen of the Boston Celtics — the league’s all-time leader in 2-point baskets was on the move too. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — whose 15,836 2-point field goals represent 99.99 percent of his lifetime NBA regular-season work (he was 1-for 18 from outside the arc that arrived for his final 10 seasons) — had spent several days in New York and New Jersey screening his film “On The Shoulders of Giants,” a documentary about the Harlem Renaissance Big Five, basketball’s first all-black team. Abdul-Jabbar was the film’s executive producer, after writing the 2007 book about the Rens that served as its launching pad.

Lastly, check out Darius on the Ed The Sports Fan Unsportsmanlike Conduct Online Radio Show. Darius talks all star weekend, gives his thoughts on the 3-point contest and talks, of course, about the Lakers and their current struggles. Darius’ segment begins around the 47:30 mark.

Phillip Barnett

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