The Los Angeles Lakers aren't putting much stock in an embarrassing loss, their first defeat in nearly three weeks. The defending champions feel a sound win over the struggling Houston Rockets can put them back on the right path.
The Lakers look to put their worst performance of the season behind them Saturday night when they visit a banged-up Rockets team trying to avoid losing four in a row for the first time in nearly 2 1/2 years.
Los Angeles (53-19) came into Oklahoma City on Friday riding a seven-game winning streak, but the Western Conference leaders looked nothing like a championship contender in losing 91-75.
The Lakers shot 32.1 percent through three quarters and needed a 28-point outburst in the final period to ensure they wouldn't break the franchise record for fewest points in the modern era (70). They managed a season-low seven assists to go with 18 turnovers, and trailed by as many as 33 in losing for the first time since a 96-94 setback at Orlando on March 7.
As bad as Los Angeles looked -- and with a 5 1/2-game lead over second-place Denver in the conference -- the players aren't worried.
"I think we really don't have to make a huge deal about it," center Pau Gasol said. "We're able to bounce back (Saturday) and put a good game together and move on. We don't want to search too deep into it because there's nothing to search for."
Kobe Bryant was at the center of the Lakers' struggles, finishing with 11 points and nine turnovers. The 12-time All-Star also didn't see any problem with the sluggish performance, noting things will be different once the playoffs begin.
"It's disappointing we didn't respond to the challenge," Bryant said. "That being said, when the playoffs start it's a different situation.
"We want to play better. There's things that we have to do, that we have to shore up, but I know what we can do. I know what our identity is."
The Lakers appear to have a good chance of bouncing back with a game against a Houston team that has looked out of sorts lately.
The Rockets (36-35) are coming off Thursday's 99-93 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, and are in position to lose four straight for the first time since dropping six in a row from Nov. 13-23, 2007.
Injuries have played a big part in Houston's recent troubles. Shane Battier has sat out the last three games with a hyperextended left knee and Kevin Martin, who has averaged 21.8 points in 17 games since he was acquired in a trade on Feb. 18, didn't play Thursday because of a sore left shoulder.
Both are day-to-day.
Trevor Ariza led Houston with 18 points, eight rebounds and eight assists against the Clippers, and said it's difficult to compete when the team is dealing with so many injuries.
"That's the hardest part about this game," he said. "We work ... all season with those guys and they go down. It takes a lot out of you. We know that coming into a game we just got to figure out ways to keep it going."
Trying to solve those problems against the Lakers, who have won six of the last seven meetings, won't be easy.
Bryant averaged 31.5 points in two wins over the Rockets this season, but finished with only 18 on 5 of 20 shooting in a 101-91 loss on Nov. 15.