The skies over the Great Western Forum were overcast Saturday morning. A fitting scene given the current state of the Los Angeles Lakers.
"We're surprised," Kobe Bryant said. "We never expected to be in this predicament."L.A.'s predicament is an 0-3 deficit in its best-of-seven Western Conference finals series with Utah. The third setback, a 109-98 homecourt loss Friday, left the Lakers searching for answers.
"It's very frustrating. We played with no emotion. I just think (the Jazz) wanted it more than we did," Shaquille O'Neal said. "Now we're in a terrible hole. We can't give up. Anything's possible."
For the Lakers to advance to the NBA Finals, however, history will have to rewritten. No team has ever come back to win a playoff series after being down 0-3.
"We just have to show a little bit of pride and never give up," O'Neal said. "We have to take it one game at a time from here on out."
As far as L.A. is concerned, there is no tomorrow. A loss today in Game 4 puts a sweeping end to a season of promise - 61 wins, playoff victories over Portland and Seattle and the Lakers' first conference final since 1991.
"This series isn't over," Bryant said. "We're very upset and we're very down on ourselves because we weren't able to take care of the Jazz on our home floor, but there's always Sunday."
Survival will require a collective effort, according to Nick Van Exel.
"It comes from within. Each individual really has to believe that we can come back and pull this thing out," he said. "If not, we're going to be in trouble."
Derek Fisher called it a matter of personal pride and Rick Fox said L.A. must approach each remaining game as an opportunity to turn things around.
"Losing is discouraging in any case. That goes without saying," acknowledged Lakers coach Del Harris. "Hopefully, our guys are not beaten. Yes, we're down, but we're not out."
Harris said a combination of Utah's defense, efficiency and quick shots have put Los Angeles on the verge of elimination. He was especially disappointed with his team's decisions in Game 3 when O'Neal had the hot hand with 39 points.
"Those things happen from time to time," Harris said. "We didn't shoot the ball well, with the exception of Shaquille."
O'Neal shot 17 of 30 from the field, while the rest of the Lakers teamed for 32 percent accuracy. Other low marks for Los Angeles include 15 missed free throws and having its bench outscored 46-22 by Utah's subs.
"We should be embarrassed. We didn't play with any emotion - with any fire," O'Neal said. "We didn't play with any heart."
Why these young Lakers failed to show for their biggest game since Shaq came West is tough to understand.
It would perplex Robert Stack over at "Unsolved Mysteries." It has confused the Utah Jazz.
"I think it came from earlier when they all thought they were going to sweep us. I don't know," said Utah's Bryon Russell. "They haven't put up their guard yet to fight. I thought they'd come out and play hard. They played hard the last game, but we played a little bit harder than they did."