PHOENIX — Already flummoxed by a forgettable loss to Sacramento, the Lakers stopped by the newly named US Airways Center and quickly ran into an old problem, the Phoenix Suns, one of their least favorite opponents these days.
The Suns tend to turn games into track events, as they did again Friday, the Lakers too bewildered to do anything but take the path of least resistance in a 106-93 loss that dropped them to 0-6 against Phoenix since the Shaquille O'Neal trade.
Compounding the Laker problem was Kobe Bryant's least accurate night in almost four weeks, 37 points on 12-for-33 shooting, to go with only two assists and two rebounds.
Lamar Odom was the only other Laker with more than 12 points. He had 15 points, 12 rebounds and four assists, but only five points and two rebounds in the second half as the Lakers trailed by as many as 20.
Odom rejected the notion of a hangover effect from Thursday night.
"This game was this game," he said as he crumpled the stat sheet and dropped it at his side.
And with that, a brief two-game trip that showed the promise of a late Laker lead in Sacramento was swept away with the dash of Steve Nash and the brawn of Shawn Marion.
The Suns, averaging a league-best 105.2 points, were everywhere the Lakers weren't, their high-scoring offense again living up to their ticket-sales slogan of "Making Basketball Fun Again."
The Lakers, meanwhile, were making a run at falling to .500 again, their record now 21-19 with one game left until their regular-season midpoint.
The Lakers hoped to keep Nash below the 17 assists he had two months ago in the Suns' 122-112 victory at Staples Center. They managed to do so, but Nash had 17 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds, and Marion had 22 points and 16 rebounds, and Eddie House had 19 points and Raja Bell had 18.
And to think the Pacific Division-leading Suns have been doing it without All-Star forward Amare Stoudemire, who is still at least a month away from returning from knee surgery. And to think they did it Friday with former Laker Cedric Ceballos calling for "Beat L.A." chants as one of the Suns' in-house yell leaders.
"They played Phoenix Suns-style basketball," Bryant said. "They get up and down, shoot a lot of quick shots, and when they start falling for them, they jump out to a big lead."
The Lakers, trying to play small ball as well, inserted Devean George in Kwame Brown's starting spot. George had six points in 30 minutes. Brown had two points and a rebound in nine minutes.
Bryant had his worst shooting game since a 13-for-37 effort Dec. 28 against Memphis.
"He was bothered by Bell," Jackson said. "He did a great job on [Bryant]."
Said Bryant: "They just weren't falling. Some nights I'm on fire and other nights I have nights like tonight where the shots just aren't going."
The Lakers didn't arrive in Phoenix from Sacramento until close to 3 a.m., and then regrouped at shoot-around Friday morning.
Asked what the team did in the morning, Jackson smiled and said, "We usually hold hands and pray for guidance from above. I've got evidence that it works."
It worked in the first half, as the Lakers took a 35-25 lead and, though they lost it, kept it close enough to trail by only 49-43 at halftime.
Then came the second half, and the beginning of the end of Laker hopes for the night.
The Suns had a 9-2 run to start the third quarter.
"You know how I hate to call timeouts," Jackson said. "Even I had to call a timeout after that."
Afterward, when the Laker road record had evened out at 11-11, Jackson had only one question.
"Can we go home now?" he said.