MILWAUKEE — The soft part of their schedule behind them, the Lakers arrived here Thursday night not unlike the tourist who lost his traveler's checks before pulling out of his own driveway.
A one-sided 117-104 loss to Portland at the Forum was not the sendoff the Lakers had wanted before embarking on a five-city, eight-day tour that begins tonight with a game against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Two losses at home in their first 13 games is hardly cause for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to begin sprouting gray hairs out of his clean-shaven head, but nonetheless, it's notable in the light of last season's 37-4 showing at the Forum, the best home record in the league.
"Good teams don't lose home games," Laker Coach Pat Riley said after the Wednesday night whipping by the Trail Blazers. "Not when you're on top of it."
The other loss at home came against the Bucks, who ended the Lakers' 8-0 start with a 124-116 victory in overtime Nov. 22. The Bucks also pounded the Lakers in their last meeting in Milwaukee last December, 116-93, the second-worst loss for the Lakers all season.
Jerry Reynolds, the guard who scored 24 points and made a couple of big steals when the Bucks rallied from 10 points down to catch the Lakers at the Forum, won't be playing tonight. Reynolds has a sprained left ankle and is on the injured list. So is forward Larry Krystkowiak, who sprained his left ankle Wednesday night in Detroit. Small forward Terry Cummings has a lower back strain and is doubtful for tonight's game.
Riley said late Thursday night that he still doesn't know when James Worthy will be sufficiently recovered from the tendinitis in his left knee to return to the Laker lineup. Worthy has missed the last three games, which has meant extended minutes for the other Laker starters. Even Abdul-Jabbar played 40 minutes in the Lakers' overtime win in Sacramento Tuesday night.
And this will be the first time this season that the Lakers play consecutive games on the road. They face the Cavaliers at Cleveland Saturday night, go to New Jersey for a game against the Nets Tuesday night, then bus to Washington for a game against the Bullets Wednesday night, before winding up the trip in Boston with a game against the Celtics next Friday night.
Riley said the Lakers haven't played well since their 27-point win over Portland more than two weeks ago. Since then, the Lakers:
--Nearly blew a 27-point lead to Dallas at home.
--Incurred successive losses to the Bucks at home and to the SuperSonics in Seattle.
--Struggled to hold off the Nuggets at home.
--Needed overtime to subdue the Kings in Sacramento.
--Were blown out by the Trail Blazers.
"We've been too soft defensively," he said. "We're not challenging anybody. We look good in practice, but we're not bringing it over to the game.
"The mental energy is missing. We're not bringing it to the court."
In four of their last five games, the Lakers have been outshot by their opponents, something that did not happen once during the winning streak. Sacramento shot better than 60% against the Lakers in the second half.
The Lakers also have been outrebounded in four of the last five games, with Portland beating them by a ridiculous 53-37 margin Wednesday night. The Lakers had just eight offensive rebounds against the Trail Blazers, a season low.
The rebounding load has been assumed almost single-handedly by A.C. Green, who has had 10 or more rebounds 10 times in the first 13 games, including the last eight straight.
Still, only Chicago has more wins than the Lakers, and the return of a healthy Worthy is probably the only corrective measure the Lakers need.