LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Lakers have the banners hanging from the rafters of Staples Center that prove they are the NBA's current back-to-back champions, but they hardly have the resume this season to suggest a third is in store.
Sunday's 109-96 loss to the Boston Celtics dropped the Lakers' record to just 1-5 against the so-called elite teams. The Lakers are 1-3 against the top three teams in the Eastern Conference, losing to the Celtics and Miami Heat once apiece and splitting two games with the Chicago Bulls. They are 0-2 against the top three teams in the West other than themselves, losing against the San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks.
"We're not playing very well against these top teams," said Kobe Bryant after scoring 41 points in the losing effort against Boston. "So we need to elevate our level and we need to get better, if we're to defend our throne."
At 33-15, the Lakers trail the Spurs by 7½ games for the No. 1 seed in the West. Los Angeles has the fifth best record overall, behind San Antonio, Boston, Chicago and Miami.
"Is it the playoffs yet? No. OK. It's not the playoffs yet, we're still playing regular season games," said Lakers head coach Phil Jackson. "We'll get there in time."
Lakers forward Ron Artest echoed his coach's patience in more colorful terms.
"I got Fs in elementary school and I still went to college," Artest said.
There are 34 regular season games remaining on the schedule for the Lakers and 23 of those games are against teams with records of .500 or better as of Sunday. So far this season, the Lakers are just 9-9 against teams that currently have records of .500 or better.
"To a certain extent, it is concerning," said Pau Gasol. "We got to step up and beat these teams when we face them because at some point we're going to have to end up beating them if we want to get to our goal. We have to understand that the regular season is not crucial, but it's important ... we have to have a little more of sense of urgency, a certain sense of getting better and just beating whoever we're facing."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.