If there was one player on the Lakers' roster most responsible for their remarkable turnaround after the All-Star break, it was Andrew Bynum.
And now that the Lakers are starting to look like the lackadaisical bunch they were before the break, when they hit rock bottom with a loss to Cleveland, no player has been more vocal about it than Bynum either.
"I just think we’re going out there and playing kind of stupid basketball," said Bynum after his 13 points and 17 rebounds weren't enough from stopping the Lakers from losing to Golden State to extend their current losing streak to three games.
"We’re not playing our smartest," he continued. "People are going hard, but the energy … When you put negative energy out, it’s going to come back to you. That’s what happens. And it goes all the way down the line, from the coaching staff to the players who miss free throws to when we came in at halftime, the video guy put in the [wrong game] from two-three games ago against Golden State. So, the collective energy is just bad right now."
Bryant, who scored 10 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter to cut the Warriors' 19-point lead to eight in a too-little too-late rally, took it all with a grain of salt.
Asked if Friday's game against Portland was a "must-win" to avoid dropping four straight, Kobe replied with thick sarcasm: "It’s massive. It’s a season-turner."
When he was nearing the end of his bemused postgame remarks, a reporter commented that he didn't seem too upset to which Kobe replied to in sing-song fashion: "Oh yeah, I’m totally happy with the way we played tonight. I’m ecstatic."
The fact of the matter is this team is too experienced to get too low after a single loss or even a few losses. They remember going 4-9 over the last 13 games of the regular season last year and still winning the ring. And they recall sleepwalking through the Houston series two years ago en route to their first championship.
"We know that come playoff time, everything is going to be fine," Bynum said, coming down from his rant with some rationale. "When I say that, I mean there’s not going to be anybody out there not playing their hardest basketball."
The loss mathematically eliminated the Lakers from the possibility of catching the Spurs for No. 1 in the West.
Not that the team is sweating it. There’s been varied opinions shared by the Lakers as to how important home court advantage throughout the playoffs really is.
Bryant, using his own circuitous logic, said that the Lakers actually didn’t have home court advantage in the Finals last year because after the series started 1-1, three of the final five games were in Boston.
Derek Fisher said that after consecutive home losses to Denver and Utah, home court advantage seems a little “irrelevant” compared to the need to play better as a team no matter what arena they’re in.
"That’s something you really always say no you don’t when you don’t have it and you say it’s really great to have when you do have it," is how head coach Phil Jackson put it on Tuesday.
But Jackson said Wednesday there's one reason he would like to have the home court edge in a series, despite his team's strong road record.
"When it comes down to the seventh game, it’s a big difference whether it’s on your home floor," Jackson said before citing an analytical study that pored over data across all sports in series-deciding games for the home and the road team.
"The probabilities are you’re going to get calls when you have the ball on your home court in the seventh game," Jackson said. "It’s just human nature. You can’t avoid it. It’s just the way it is."
The Lakers had 20 turnovers against Nuggets, 19 against the Jazz and 18 against the Warriors. There was no consolation in the slight improvement as the offense struggled again with the team shooting just 42.9 percent while scoring in the 80s for the second straight game.
"Sometimes it's just too simple to do the easy thing," Jackson said. "Guys try to do more than they're capable of ... There's always a safety valve in our offense and we're not doing a good job of it."
Bryant also made a plea for simplification.
"Just execute," Bryant said. "Especially if you’re off your game, the important thing is to just go back to basics. You really have to simplify the game as much as you possibly can and be as fundamentally sound as you possibly can."
If the playoffs started today, the Lakers would be playing the Trail Blazers in the first round in a No. 2 vs. No. 7 matchup.
"Even if we weren’t [lined up to play them], I’m a competitor," Bryant said. "You want to win every game. So the fact that we might see them in the postseason adds a little bit to it. I want to try to win twice up in Portland, try to make up for some lost years."
The Lakers finally snapped a nine-game losing streak at the Rose Garden last season, but always seem to have tough games there. The first time they played their this season, they needed overtime to win.
The Lakers were outrebounded 50-47 and gave up 18 on the offensive end. Jackson said he couldn't remember the last time Golden State won the battle of the boards against his team.
"That was the disparity that made up [Wednesday's] game," said Jackson, pointing out the Warriors' 18-6 advantage in second-chance points. "That was the difference."
Matt Barnes finished with 10 points and six rebounds, including a personal 6-0 run in the fourth quarter to give L.A. a bit of a spark and Shannon Brown was able to connect on an outside shot for the first time in nine games, but the Lakers' bench again struggled as a unit, letting the deficit balloon from five to 17 in the third quarter when it was in there.
"It's a major part of what we have to do to get it right," Jackson said of the priority level of the bench's improvement among his team's needs at the moment. "Collectively as a group right now they're not meshing."
Steve Blake went 0-for-5 and was fuming in the postgame locker room, offering short responses to reporters' questions. Even the steady Lamar Odom, who went just 3-for-7, wasn't much in the mood to talk afterward.
"Personally I think we got to get out and run a little more," Brown offered as a solution. "We got to share the ball a little bit more. I think it gets stuck a lot of times in that second unit. .. It ain’t like we not trying to do it, we just got to continue to work together so it can start jelling and coming together."
Jackson said he didn't have much to say to his team after the game.
"Bags at 10, bus at 11," Jackson relayed, pointing out that he reminded the team of it's Thursday travel schedule as it will spend the night in San Francisco before flying to Portland.
"We'll talk about it tomorrow," Jackson said of analyzing the loss.
The team had scheduled a day off from practice, but will wear its practice gear on the flight and Jackson will decide while they're in the air whether to have practice or not.
As much as turnovers, the bench and rebounds all contributed to the way the Lakers are playing, Bryant thinks it could be just the accumulation of a long season.
"We looked a little heavy, a little sluggish, a little fatigued. Guys got to really take care of their bodies and get rest where need to and get re-energized a little bit," said Bryant. "Some of it’s the energy that was exerted going 17-1. That probably has something to do with it."
With four games left in the regular season, Jackson isn't planning on packing it in and sitting his starters.
"They rested tonight," Jackson said. "Kobe played 31 minutes, Pau played  minutes. They didn't play heavy minutes."
Quote of the night: "We're bothered by it." -- Jackson on the Lakers' level of concern after following their 17-1 stretch with a three-game slide.
Stats of the night: Wednesday marks the Lakers’ fourth losing streak of three game or more this season (they had a four-game slide from Nov. 26 – Dec. 1) … Dorell Wright broke Jason Richardson’s franchise record of 183 3-pointers in a season by going 2-for-8 from downtown to bring his total this year to 185.