No Steve Nash, no Amare Stoudemire, no doubt what would happen.
The Lakers and Phoenix Suns used to have fun, frothy games, flying past each other while their coaches lobbed barbs back and forth, sometimes even in behind-the-scenes books.
But the Lakers have risen, leaving the Suns behind, the latest evidence a dominant 132-106 victory Thursday at Staples Center.
Lamar Odom had an incredibly efficient night, scoring 23 points on 11-for-12 shooting. Kobe Bryant almost matched him, scoring 22 points on 10-for-13 shooting.
The Lakers won their sixth consecutive game, moved to 48-10 and took a 2 1/2 -game lead over Boston for the league's best record. They lead Cleveland by three games and hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Celtics and Cavaliers.
"Obviously we follow it," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said of the bigger picture.
If it didn't look good on paper for the Suns, who were without Nash (sprained ankle) and Stoudemire (eye surgery), it looked even worse on the court.
The Lakers led by as many as 28, ripped through the Suns at every corner and turned the game over to the reserves after entering the fourth quarter with a 102-81 lead. Neither Odom nor Bryant played in the fourth quarter. Pau Gasol (16 points, nine rebounds) played one minute in the quarter.
Efficiency? The Lakers shot 57.4%, made a season-high 54 field goals and tied their season-high with 132 points.
Edgy? Bryant wore a serious expression throughout the game, despite his detente with Shaquille O'Neal at the All-Star game.
Eager fans? During the game, for sure, and especially with 2:07 to play, when they headed for the exits with the Lakers ahead, 123-100. No promotional tacos on this night.
Even backup center DJ Mbenga got into the act, tying his career-high with eight points, including four points and a blocked shot in the second quarter as the Lakers led by as many as 19.
Things just aren't as fun for the Suns these days.
They beat the Lakers in a memorable first-round playoff series in 2006, winning in seven games. Then they easily defeated the Lakers in a first-round series in 2007, winning in five games.
Last season, however, the Suns lost to San Antonio in the first round and the Lakers advanced to the NBA Finals.
This season, the Suns (32-25) might not even make the playoffs. They are now two games behind Dallas for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, and Stoudemire might not return before the regular season ends.
O'Neal had 12 points and seven rebounds in only 21 minutes. He did not play in the fourth quarter.
Odom, who came over from Miami in the O'Neal trade in 2004, continued his inspired play, totaling nine rebounds and four assists in almost 32 minutes. Not to mention his shooting . . .
"He had a really terrific night -- a lot of things off the break, a lot of things around the hoop," Jackson said. "It made for a really good night for him shooting-wise."
Odom then said something the rest of the league might not like.
"We feel like we can play better," he said. "We're striving to be, I guess, perfect."