MEMPHIS, TENN. — There was a time when the Phoenix Suns led the NBA in scoring for three consecutive seasons, when they were offense-minded and when defense was a foreign concept.
The Lakers lead the NBA in scoring, piling up 107.3 points per game, but their defense has begun to leak from so many holes they don't seem to know where or how to plug them.
For Lamar Odom, there are too many similarities now between today's Lakers and those Suns teams, and that's not a good thing.
Every team seems to take advantage of the Lakers' porous defense.
"It's just like when we used to play against Phoenix two seasons ago," Odom said. "We always felt like, 'Oh, we're going to get back in the game. They are playing an offensive style of basketball.' I think that's how teams right now might be looking at us.
"We're not making it hard enough for teams, as far as around the basket, as far as our defense. At the beginning of the year, maybe the first seven or eight or 10 games, we had teams that quit. It was like, 'This is too hard. We know we can't stop them. And they're making it hard for us on defense.' "
"Now, I feel like teams feel like we're going to let them back in the game," Odom said.
That's because the Lakers have.
They are giving up 98 points per game, which ranks the Lakers No. 16 on defense.
The Lakers began the season as a defensive force, holding their first seven opponents below 100 points. The Lakers have given up 100 points or more in five of their last seven games.
Memphis, the team the Lakers play tonight, is averaging 94.34 points per game, the fourth-lowest amount in the NBA.
But the Lakers are known for surrendering big games to the opposition, no matter who it is.
"This is just a little bump in the road that we're going through," Odom said. "You know they are going to come. No matter who our opponent is, no matter what their record is, we've got to start somewhere. We can't let this carry over three games in a row. Tomorrow would be a good time for everybody to do their job the way they did earlier in the year."
The Lakers have a winning record on the road at 7-4, which in many ways is impressive.
But they are struggling these days.
They lost the first two of a four-game trip, three consecutive road games overall and four of their last six.
"I've been talking with the guys about playing with more enthusiasm and playing with more energy," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said.
Jackson wants his team to maintain its composure away from home and not get three technical fouls as the Lakers did Saturday night against Orlando.
Jackson wants his team to match the opponent's energy and drive, and play smart.
"You can't make it an offensive game on the road," Odom said. "That's not directed toward any one person on our team or any one individual. That's just how we've been approaching the game lately, I think, as a unit. We've been playing an offensive game or an offensive way of basketball."