The Lakers followed a familiar script in Phoenix on Sunday.
Fall down double digits early while playing on the road. Expend a lot of effort attempting to mount a comeback. End up falling short because the hole was too deep.
It could have been Orlando or Miami or Sacramento or Denver. Same script, different day.
Knowing that his team had strung together three wins in a row and dismissed the Suns pretty easily just two days before, Lakers coach Mike Brown tried to cut complacency off at the pass by doing something he doesn't usually do: deliver a speech before tip-off.
"One thing I talked to our ballclub about before the game was, and I don’t say much, but I told our ballclub that this is going to be an interesting game because this is a mental game right here," Brown said. "It would be interesting to see how mentally we come out and we try to play the game tonight because for us, it could be a task mentally. So, 'Let’s go.'"
Instead of "let's go" it was "no go" as the Lakers trailed by 16 after the first quarter, gave up 63 points in the first half and never got the lead under 10 from then on.
The Lakers are now 5-11 away from Staples Center on the season and have a difficult road back-to-back looming this week against Dallas and Oklahoma City.
"It’s easy to play at home because you have your crowd there, so you’re ready to go and the energy is there," Jason Kapono said, and it was such a difficult night for L.A. that Kapono was worthy of commenting after going from two straight DNPs to playing 19 minutes. "For some reason, we lack that on the road. So, we need to find a way to come out here at the start of games and find a way to not start out down 8-10 [points] and always try to claw back and fight back."
Before the Lakers think about the road again, they must first worry about a home game against Portland on Monday. The Lakers might be 13-2 at home this season, but they will have some weary stars with Kobe Bryant playing 40 minutes and Pau Gasol playing 37 minutes against Phoenix.
Bryant finished with a game-high 32 points on 11-for-24 shooting, with 20 of those points coming in the second half when L.A. tried to get back in it.
"He was scoring and making plays for us so we kept the ball in his hands," Brown said of playing Bryant so long despite the fact that A) he had 10 turnovers and B) the Lakers have a game against Portland on Monday. "Is that something he can do? Yeah. But that’s a lot of pressure on one guy to make plays for everybody and then also to score the basketball."
Required reading: Bryant's minutes in a lost-cause loss would normally create good sports talk radio fodder the next day, but 16-year veteran gave much stronger bulletin board material to reporters after the game.
"If they're going to do something, I wish they would just (expletive) do it," Bryant said of the trade speculation surrounding Gasol. "If they're not going to do it, come out and say you're not going to do it."
Bryant wasn't the only surly sailor after the game. Andrew Bynum, who finished with 16 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks, pegged the loss on the Lakers' coaching staff overdoing it by having a practice in L.A. on Saturday, followed by a lengthy shootaround in Phoenix on Sunday in preparation for playing a Suns team that should have been fresh in the Lakers' mind after playing them on Friday.
"I don’t think we got any rest," Bynum said. "We came here from shootaround even though we just played the same team. I think it had something to do with rest, maybe."
The Lakers have taken to nicknaming Brown, "all day, every day," because of how much he prefers to practice and devote his and his players' time to basketball.
"I think for me personally, just having rest is great," Bynum said. "Especially just for my knees. But, we came in, we shot, we ran through their plays and then we just didn’t make rotations in the first half."
The Lakers cancelled their morning shootaround Monday and will have a walk-through at the arena before the Portland game instead.
Steve Blake only played 23 minutes to Derek Fisher's 25 on Friday, but Blake's 29 to Fisher's 19 on Sunday was back to where Brown wants it moving forward.
"Twenty-two [minutes], right around there," Brown said of his target playing time for Fisher. "That should leave right around 26 for Steve. It’s going to vary, but they’re going to be roughly about even. Steve may get a few more minutes because he has been finishing games for us."
Brown wasn't just thinking out loud to reporters about his rotation plans. He has already informed Fisher, the 16-year veteran and Lakers co-captain.
"Before Steve Blake got hurt, Steve Blake was closing games for us so Fish wasn’t playing as much. Steve Blake gets hurt and I got two rookies as my backups, so Fish’s minutes go up and then Steve Blake gets healthy and Fish’s minutes will probably go back down," Brown said. "I’ve talked to Fish about it. Right now I like the way both of them are playing, but Steve is giving us a little bit more."
Will Brown consider starting Blake?
"If I ever saw it fit that we needed to make a change, I would make a change, but right now I don’t<" Brown said. "I like Fish starting, I like Steve coming off the bench. But again, that’s why I get paid the bucks I get paid, to make decisions. If I think it’s best for the team, whatever the change may need to be, I’ll step up to the plate and make the change."
Speaking of Blake, he's hardly had time to catch his breath after returning to the lineup against Boston last week. Blake missed 13 games with a rib injury that he admitted made it hurt for him to breath at times, but has jumped right into the swing of things, playing an average of 28.5 minutes per game.
"They said he’s still going to be in a little bit of pain, but I think he’s fine," Brown said. "They said he’s going to be in a little bit of pain every once in a while, but he can’t injure it anymore and he’s well enough to play."
Blake had two points and three assists against Phoenix.
"He’s a tough guy," Brown said, "a very tough guy."
Troy Murphy continued to fill in as the team's third big man in the rotation on Sunday, scoring eight points in 22 minutes and going 2-for-4 on 3-pointers. It was the third time in the last five games he's hit two triples.
He said the Lakers' bench is gaining confidence at Sunday's shootaround.
"I think we figured out a way to kind of play in that second unit," Murphy said. "That’s getting the ball into Drew and then also running screen-and-rolls and having ‘Lock [Andrew Goudelock] and Steve come off and Matt [Barnes] slashing and me spacing the floor. I think figuring out the way we need to play is helping us out."
After scoring 34 points on Friday, the Lakers' bench slipped a bit on Sunday, putting up just 23 points on a combined 10-for-26 shooting clip (38.5 percent).
Seen in the locker room: Bryant, Fisher and Gasol all lingered in the training room for what seemed like longer than usual on Sunday night and there appeared to be a mutual discussion occurring between the three Lakers' leaders.
Quote of the night: "Nothing exciting or happy about this game." -- Brown summing up the loss.
Stats of the night: The Lakers are now 1-5 this season when allowing 100 points or more ... L.A. was 3-for-18 from 3 (16.7 percent) and 17-for-25 from the line (68.0 percent) compared to 7-for-20 from 3 (35.0 percent) and 27-for-32 from the line (84.4 percent) for Phoenix ... Josh McRoberts played five minutes and picked up five fouls.