It has been a weird glitch for the Lakers, a hiccup in the franchise, extending all the way back to the three-championship run that began almost a decade ago.
They always seem to struggle against the lesser teams, laughably so in some cases, the Charlotte Bobcats a prime example in recent seasons.
The Lakers have done a notable job reversing the trend this season, but then the Philadelphia 76ers rolled into town.
It took almost the full 48 minutes, but the Lakers managed to win a numbingly bland game, 99-90, Friday at Staples Center.
The teams bludgeoned each other down low, turning Kobe Bryant and 76ers forward Andre Iguodala into pass-first players as lightly regarded center Samuel Dalembert led the 76ers with 24 points.
That's right. Samuel Dalembert. He was averaging 7.2 points a game coming into Friday.
On one hand, the Lakers had 64 points in the paint. On the other, Philadelphia had 56 points down low.
Then again, a victory is a victory . . . even against a lower-rung team . . . maybe.
"We weren't proud of our defense. We weren't exactly happy with our offense," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. "I don't know who played inspired basketball like we want to play. It was more like a cursory job getting done out there."
Jackson wasn't done.
"I think there's definitely a lack of sense of urgency," he said. "There's something to be said about that. We have to bring that back to our game. We're making turnovers that are mindless. They're just not thoughtful actions in the ballgame. As a result, we're playing around with teams rather than playing through teams."
The Lakers found sources of strength down low on offense: Pau Gasol had 23 points and 11 rebounds, and Andrew Bynum had 20 points and 13 rebounds.
Dalembert, however, was a surprising force for the 76ers, making 12 of 22 shots and taking 11 rebounds. Iguodala had 13 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds.
Then there was the curious case of Bryant, who had 19 points and eight assists, leading Jackson to say his night was "lackluster."
"I still think that he's still searching to find a rhythm in his shot and rhythm in the game," Jackson said.
In his third game back after an 18-day layoff because of a sore left ankle, Bryant said he was content to keep feeding the big men.
"The ankle feels 100% and I feel strong, I feel solid," he said. "We had so many mismatches inside with Pau and Andrew and then Lamar."
Other than a 102-91 loss to the Clippers last month, the Lakers haven't fallen to any teams below .500 this season.
Before the game, though, Jackson was worried the Lakers would look ahead to Sunday's showdown against Denver. "That's just human nature," he said. "We're susceptible to that."
It wasn't until a late push in the final quarter that they created some space. Lamar Odom had six points and five rebounds in the quarter, preventing an embarrassing loss.
"Lamar finally got going late," Jackson said.
Odom finished with 11 points and nine rebounds.
The Lakers' next game is against a decidedly tougher opponent.
The Nuggets are 4 1/2 games behind the Lakers in the Western Conference but are 2-0 against them this season, burying them in November, 105-79, and earlier this month, 126-113, without Carmelo Anthony.
"They got our attention last year in the playoffs," Bryant said. "We know what they're capable of. They whupped us both times [this season]. They are something we have to deal with."