Lakers guard Kobe Bryant steals the ball from Kings forward Donte Greene,… (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)
In Lakers Coach Phil Jackson's eyes, his team has been too inconsistent in its last six games.
There was the loss to the lowly Sacramento Kings on Friday night. There was the loss to a Dallas Mavericks team that had lost six games in a row. And there was the loss to the Clippers in which the Lakers blew a big lead.
Also in that six-game stretch were victories over Utah, Denver and Oklahoma City, three probable playoff teams.
That leaves the Lakers with a 33-14 record, three games behind last season's pace after 47 games.
They will try to recapture some consistency Sunday at Staples Center against the Boston Celtics in a rematch of the NBA Finals.
"We've been up and down," Jackson said after practice Saturday. "We had a little run. I thought maybe we could make another little run in this homestand, but we're struggling a little bit."
Jackson said "we know why" the Lakers have been struggling.
"We're turning the ball over at inopportune moments," Jackson said. "We're not executing our offense very well. Transition defense, as a result, is not very good."
Maybe, it was suggested to Jackson, his team has slipped some in its play because the Lakers are coming off consecutive championships.
"We know that," Jackson said. "We know that sustaining that pace is going to be difficult. We know we have to get back on it, though. We have to get back on that horse and get going."
It won't be an easy ride for the Lakers.
They play four games this week, starting with a Celtics team that the Lakers beat in seven games last June.
They also face the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday at home. All the Spurs have done is post the best record in the NBA.
The Lakers then begin a seven-game, 12-day trip in New Orleans, and will have stops in such venues at Boston, New York and Orlando, all teams with records above .500.
"I think that our players have to be better students of the opponents that they are playing," Jackson said. "I think that [Sunday] they will have a lot of attention. Whether they play well or not is debatable, but they [the Celtics] do have the attention of the Lakers."
There doesn't seem to be much concern from the players.
They admit that they can play more consistent basketball, but they also think they aren't that far off course.
"We're not in as bad of a spot as it seems," Derek Fisher said. "But because of the expectations that we've set for ourselves and the accountability that we place on ourselves, it just doesn't feel great. But to be 33-14 and trying to accomplish what we've set out to accomplish hasn't been done in recent memory."
The Lakers are trying to win a third consecutive NBA championship.
Fisher and Kobe Bryant were a part of the last team that accomplished that feat, the 2000-2002 Lakers.
"We're not in that bad of a spot," Fisher said. "Because of how good we know we can be and how other people feel that we can be, we're harder on ourselves at times than maybe we even should be.
"But that comes with being a champion. You're never comfortable. You never feel good about where you are, even when sometimes you're not that bad off."