The Lakers didn't seem quite like the Lakers for the better part of a week, but it could always be worse.
They could be the Sacramento Kings.
If the Lakers played the Kings every game, they'd be in serious pursuit of the Chicago Bulls' record-setting 72-10 mark come April, but, back in reality, they were thrilled to face Sacramento simply to get a victory.
Kobe Bryant had 22 points, Pau Gasol played well enough on one good leg, and the Lakers easily ended their first four-game losing streak since April 2007 by thumping the Kings, 113-80, Friday at Staples Center.
Neither Bryant nor Gasol played in the fourth quarter, the Kings (4-13) well on their way to a 12th loss in their last 13 games.
The Lakers (14-6) could use the rest, in case their four-game fizzle wasn't enough evidence. They don't play again until Tuesday and will have two relatively short practices between now and then.
The Lakers are short on healthy big men these days, but they dominated Sacramento in the paint, 68 points to 30, and established a season high for margin of victory. Entering the fourth quarter, Tyreke Evans had 15 points and, um, no other King had more than nine.
"It's hard to make a judgment if we've broken free from the bonds that held us or are we still mired in what we're doing and we just got a weak sister at this particular time of the year," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said.
The only drama Friday turned out to be whether Gasol would play through a strained left hamstring. He showed up 33 minutes later than players were supposed to arrive for pregame activities and had a slow first quarter (two points, one rebound) but finished with 16 points on six-for-eight shooting in 27 minutes.
"I managed it well during the game, didn't push it too hard and I was able to play through it," Gasol said.
Shannon Brown snapped out of a minor shooting slump, scoring 14 points including an impressive double-clutch dunk in the fourth quarter. Rookies Derrick Caracter (10 points) and Devin Ebanks (nine) each set a career high.
The Lakers, in winning for the first time in 10 days, broke the 100-point barrier for the first time in six games. But before the game, as reporters dug into the losing streak, Jackson was asked about their suddenly punchless offense.
"I see Kobe and I see Fish trying to do a lot of stuff on their own, trying to help the team out and in the process, sometimes it hurts the team," Jackson said. "No fault of their own, but that's just their willful nature. You want them to continue to be forceful but understand that we are forcing shots offensively at times when we shouldn't be."
Jackson later added, "If a guy needs to have almost as many shots as points . . . he shot the ball too much."
Bryant, who had shot 40% while taking a total of 82 shots over the previous three losses, was more efficient against Sacramento and added a bounce to his step, going over Samuel Dalembert for a layup in the second quarter. That's 7-foot Samuel Dalembert.
Bryant made nine of 18 shots Friday and would have had more points if not for his four-for-eight effort at the free-throw line.
The Lakers weren't overly concerned about the losing streak and were typically "jocular" after their Friday morning shoot-around, according to Jackson.
They were definitely jovial in the fourth quarter, smiles appearing on the Lakers' bench for the first time in seemingly forever. The losing streak had ended.