LOS ANGELES "It was ugly," said Lakers' coach Mike Brown after his team's 97-90 win over the Golden State Warriors Friday night at Staples Center. "But we'll take it."
Such are the realities of a team in transition that is now 5-1 at home and 0-3 on the road.
Kobe Bryant was once again remarkable, torching the 2-5 Warriors for 39 points and 7 assists. He was backed up by Pau Gasol's usual steady game17 points and 11 rebounds. The Lakers also got a major contribution from forward Matt Barnes, who totaled 16 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists despite being in foul trouble for most of the fourth quarter. He eventually fouled out. Andrew Bynum, who has taken the league by storm early this season, had 16 rebounds, but just nine points on 3-9 shooting. Monta Ellis led Golden State with 18 points and 10 assists. Stephen Curry missed the game with continuing ankle maladies.
"We needed the win, so we found a way to win," said a somewhat-frazzled Brown in his post-game news conference. "Fortunately, Kobe scored for us. We went through stretches when we couldn't score, and he carried us.
"Matt (Barnes) had a great game for us with the scoring and the assists, and he did a very good defensive job on Monta. But overall it was an ugly night, based on us getting in late (after Thursday night's loss in Portland) and being somewhat tired and not necessarily having our legs (strong). We played tough down the stretch and took this game however (we were able to)."
These are certainly not the Lakers of back-to-back championship fame.
That was just two seasons ago, when being one game over .500 and struggling throughout most of their wins and losses would have caused endless consternation in Lakerdom. With a new coach, new players and a superstar trying to play through a devastating wrist injury, however, people need to accept that this squad is a work in progressand may be for a while longer.
"I wish I could pinpoint when it was all going to fall into place," lamented Brown who signed up to coach a completely different team. "But it's tough because you're looking for practice time to clean up (the mistakes), and we just don't have it. There's a lot that has to be cleaned up, so we can't even give them a day off because the games just keep coming."
When they've come at home, it's usually turned out OK.
After losing the Christmas Day opener to Chicago, the Lakers have taken five straight at Staples. While they haven't been pretty, they have been wins. But the road has proven to be disastrous, losing all three and looking bad in doing it.
If there's a sense of panic in the locker room, you can't tell by talking to the players.
"I've lost a game on the road before," said Metta World Peace with a sarcastic tone to his voice. "We lost two in a row on the road (to the Celtics) in the Finals, and nobody gave up then. We won the championship coming home down three games to two. No team has ever won them all, so I'm not going to worry about what, three losses?
"This team is tough, believe me. We've got a lot of really good and tough players in this room and we'll win wherever we have to. We've got a really good team. Everybody's fine so far and we're going to be OK. Believe me, we're going to be OK."
Gasol agrees with his head coach, saying the transition time is nowhere near over.
"Because of the new players and the new system put in by the coaches, it's going to take a while longer," said Gasol, who is also playing through injuries; the most serious being a sore shoulder. "On the road, we've had some good spurts, but we haven't really finished the job. The next (road game) is in Utah, it'll be the second game of a (home-road) back to back, and we'll go there and try to win one on the road and get on a roll away from home."
Gasol also says the team is very tired right now due to the condensed schedule.
"Extremely. Extremely. But we don't have and choice except to go out there and play the best we can with the most effort. We have to fight through the fatigue and mentally push ourselves to give our best under the circumstances."
That's never been a question for Bryant, who would play in a sandstorm if there was a chance to win an NBA game. But even he admits that this schedule isn't easy on any teamespecially one trying to figure itself out.
"The important thing," Bryant said, "is for us to find a way to pick up our energy on both ends of the floor. We're going to have nights like this, but we have to get more consistent in our effort for us to win at home or on the road."