Are the Lakers really that bad?

Nothing has gone according to plan for the Lakers, who already are working on their third coach, their fourth starting point guard, and tonight in Oklahoma City, their seventh attempt at getting back to .500.

This game was supposed to be a showdown of two Western Conference heavyweights, and instead we find ourselves using the singular form. Steve Nash has played six quarters, Pau Gasol is resting his aching knees, and Dwight Howard hasn't looked anything like the defensive dominator he was in Orlando.

And yet, the Lakers really aren't that bad. Yes, going 9-10 against an easy schedule is disturbing, but this poor result has been driven as much by luck as skill. The Lakers are just 1-9 in games decided by 10 points or fewer, and have gone 8-1 in the others. They beat Denver by 19, Golden State by 24 and Houston by 11. They've outscored opponents by 4.1 points per game, the sixth-best figure in the league, and are in the league's top eight teams in both Offensive and Defensive Efficiency -- only the Clippers and Spurs can make a similar boast.