It was the case of the lead that could just not be kept.
The Lakers led by 15 points with 9:35 remaining in the second quarter before the Wizards cut it to four with 5:50 to go, less than four minutes of game time later.
The Lakers led by 19 points with 5:33 remaining in the third quarter before the Wizards cut it to just three as the game headed into the fourth.
The Lakers led by 10 points with 4:40 remaining in the fourth before the Wizards cut it back to four with 1:20 remaining in the game.
L.A. ended up winning by seven but it felt like something they just barely eked out.
"It was a game of runs," Lakers head coach Phil Jackson said. "We put together a good run to finish the second period. We put together a good one at the end of the first half, but they had a run at the end of the third and made a game out of it."
During the Lakers' recent four-game losing streak, Jackson preached to his team about the importance of breaking the game open when it senses its opponent is on the ropes. The Lakers relied on a T.K.O. rather than a simple knockout against the Wizards.
"We definitely didn't do the things we should have to close the game out," Shannon Brown said. "We had them down by 14-15 points and we should have went up by 20-24 points and we blew it."
There were myriad reasons to place the blame on. The Lakers' transition defense was iffy, allowing John Wall and the Wizards to score 24 fastbreak points. Their perimeter D wasn't all there either, as they allowed Washington to go 11-for-27 (40.7 percent) from downtown.
The biggest culprit may have been ball movement, however. The Lakers assisted on 22-of-28 made baskets in the first half (78.6 percent) and just 4-of-12 in the second half (33.3 percent).
"I thought we got sloppy with the ball," Jackson said. "[We had] 22 assists in the first half and we had four in the second. That tells you something about what we were doing with the ball and how we're using it. Guys were looking for their own game, shot or whatever. As a result, we shot poorly too."
L.A. shot just 12-of-39 (30.8 percent) as a team overall in the second half.
You can't spell "sloppy" with out L.O.
Lamar Odom made two of the more egregious mistakes by the Lakers down the stretch that didn't jibe with Jackson.
First, with 3:58 in the third quarter and the Lakers up by 17 points, he turned the ball over on a fastbreak with a fancy pass, denying the team a sure two points.
Said Jackson: "We had a transition and Lamar decided to throw it over his shoulder, some kind of oop-de-doop pass that came out of nowhere when he could have made a very simple play."
Said Odom: "That's what you guys love if the play is made. You all love the ESPN highlight. Sometimes they don't work. When you're up 20, it's a good time to take those risks. You have fun with the game. The fans love it."
Then with 21.9 seconds left in the fourth quarter and 16 seconds showing on the shot clock and the Lakers up by four, Odom took a 3-pointer from the corner that missed, giving the Wizards one last breath.
Said Jackson: "I asked him what he was thinking and he said, ‘I got selfish.’ He did. It was a selfish move and it could have cost us the game."
Said Odom: "[I was thinking] it might go in ... I might hold it out [next time] but we were up two possessions, you can afford a shot like that obviously."
L.A. native and USC product Nick Young led Washington with 30 points on 10-of-18 shooting including a 6-of-11 mark from 3 to go with three rebounds and three steals.
The fourth-year guard has a career scoring average of 9.3 points on 43. 9 percent shooting, but he always seems to turn it up when he's playing in his hometown against the Lakers.
In four career games at Staples Center vs. the purple and gold, Young is averaging 20.8 points on 55.8 percent shooting from the field, 50 percent shooting from 3 and 87.5 percent shooting from the foul line.
"We know when Nick Young come to town we're just going to give up 25 points," Jackson said. "Just mark it down."
Rookie of the Year Week for the Lakers as they follow up Wall (22 points, 14 assists, five rebounds, three blocks) with Blake Griffin and the Clippers on Wednesday.
“I’m very curious to see him up close and to see how Lamar and Pau [Gasol] deal with him,” Kobe Bryant said about Griffin.
Bryant (12-of-23) shot 50 percent from the field or better for the second-consecutive game. It's the first time he's done that since the Lakers' third and fourth games of the season on Oct. 31 and Nov. 2.
He did it by attacking the paint, going 8-of-11 in the purple rectangle vs. Washington and 7-of-12 in the paint (with two dunks) against Sacramento.
"It's just being more aggressive," Bryant said. "Just getting in the paint and making defenses do something."
"A lot of it's size of players that are getting in the mix and how they land or how they survive the fall," Jackson said. "That's just a natural part of the game. I think it's not objective now. It can't be objective. It's all subjective."
His numbers for the game won't bowl you over (eight points on 3-of-11 shooting, seven assists, six rebounds, two steals), but Tuesday night marked the 434th consecutive regular season game played by Derek Fisher, making him the league's active leader. Read about his reaction to the milestone and find out who he passed here.
Quote of the night: "They really sucked the joy out of winning that one didn't they." -- Lakers head coach Phil Jackson on the Lakers letting the Wizards back into the game.
Stats of the night: The Wizards are now 0-11 on the road on the season ... The Lakers have now won eight straight against Washington ... The Lakers had 22 offensive rebounds leading to 29 points. The Wizards had nine offensive rebounds leading to four points ... L.A. controlled the glass overall 45-34.
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter. Nate Jones of ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this report.