These are the games where all heads normally turn to Kobe Bryant.
Regardless of title — opponent, teammate, fan or hater — everyone in attendance anticipates Bryant's time in the crunch for the
But without him, you get a game like Friday's between the Lakers and
It left the Lakers with a 4-7 record and nothing to do about it while Bryant recovers from a torn Achilles' tendon.
After watching their animated effort Friday, easily above satisfactory against a veteran team, it made you wonder how much better the Lakers would be with a healthy Bryant.
"We'd be better than 4-7," said Blake, who missed two shots in the final minute. "Obviously Kobe would make a huge impact on us."
So they wait. And lose. A painful cycle for them.
How bad were things for the depleted Lakers? Even their TV announcer played hurt.
"Just laryngitis," Lantz said. "I'll be ready by Sunday."
The Lakers will too against Detroit, presumably.
They might want to study their recent poor efforts against post players.
Anthony Davis started it a week earlier with a career-high 32 points. Then the highly unheralded
Randolph scored 28 (14 in the fourth quarter) against them Friday, continually beating
Three big men with three big games over the last week?
"Zach's done that over the last 10 years. He's a load," Lakers Coach
The Lakers had their chances, including a three-point shot by Blake with 12.9 seconds left that would have tied the score at 87-87.
"It felt good," Blake said. "I thought it was going in, but it was just a little short."
Blake had nine points and 10 assists.
There was nobody to take over for the Lakers.
"We're competing," said
The Lakers had the same starting lineup a third consecutive game, a hint of continuity for a team desperately seeking some.
The Lakers returned to normal in attendance, drawing a capacity crowd of 18,997 after failing to draw a sell out for the first time since 2006 a few days earlier against New Orleans.
And fans didn't leave without cheering for Bryant.
They chanted his name when he walked onto the court during a timeout to present a $150,000 check from the Lakers to the Philippine
There is still no timetable for Bryant's return. There is also no timetable for the Lakers' consistency.
"I thought we played as hard as we could play," D'Antoni said, and he wasn't wrong about it.
But the reality is there in the Western Conference standings, the Lakers more toward the bottom than the top.