L.A. fell to 0-2 with Bryant in the lineup and 10-11 overall as it couldn't do anything on defense to corral the hot-shooting Phoenix Suns, who made 51.8 percent of their attempts.
The good for Bryant? He led L.A. with 20 points, doubling his output in his debut against Toronto. He shot 5-for-10 from the field and 8-for-8 from the foul line. He cut his turnovers down from eight to three. He added three assists, two rebounds and his first dunk since his comeback.
The bad? L.A. seems to have lost the rhythm it established in his absence as the Lakers have now lost two in a row at home after winning three in a row on the road.
"We have to know the urgency of what's happening," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said before the game. "It's going to be uneven. Our offense, even defensively, we're going to make some mistakes by being unfamiliar with what we're doing or with different lineups. We just can't afford not to be playing at 100 percent completely as hard as we can and know the urgency of it."
Playing hard wasn't the problem Tuesday. Nor was Bryant's performance, even. The problem is L.A., which had been shaping itself as a share everything type of squad for much of the season, is now back in discovery mode.
How it happened: The Suns sped ahead by 14 in the third quarter before the Lakers crept back in it on the back of Jordan Hill (13 points, seven rebounds) and Jodie Meeks (13 points), cutting the lead to five heading into the fourth. Both teams basically exchanged buckets for most of the fourth with Bryant making a couple of sweet scores, but L.A. not getting the necessary stops.
What it means: Growing pains are just as painful when there's a future Hall of Famer like Bryant involved.
Hits:Pau Gasol bounced back with 19 points on 6-for-11 shooting.
Meeks continued his solid shooting, going 5-for-10 in his return to the starting lineup.
Misses: The Lakers came into the game giving up 47.3 points in the paint on average to their opponents, ranking them 29th in the league. They let the Suns score 56.
Nick Young, who came into the game shooting 79.5 percent from the foul line, went just 2-for-6 on free throws.
Robert Sacre went from starting two straight games to not playing.
Stat of the game: L.A. played with its ninth different starting lineup in its 21st game Tuesday.
"Hopefully it goes well," D'Antoni said of the change pregame. "If not, we’ll try something else." The Lakers played much better as a starting unit than they did against Toronto, but Shawne Williams playing only 12 minutes as a starter could be an indicator of yet another shuffle on the horizon.
Up next: The Lakers have the day off Wednesday to rest before their four-game trip that begins Friday through Oklahoma City, Charlotte, Atlanta and Memphis.