HOUSTON — This season's only five weeks old. It feels like five months for the Lakers.
The surprises haven't stopped, an all-encompassing peek including Kobe Bryant's rant at practice, his suggestion that Pau Gasol put on "big boy pants," Steve Blake's confrontation with a wealthy courtside fan, Steve Nash's never-healing left leg, a coaching change, Dwight Howard's woeful free-throw shooting, Gasol's aching knees and weirdly unacceptable losses.
On Tuesday, though, the Lakers offered their fans something that's no longer stunning.
They lost a road game.
The Houston Rockets beat them, 107-105, at Toyota Center, dropping the Lakers to 1-5 away from Staples Center.
The team that was supposed to stroll to the NBA Finals can't even win outside the 213 area code.
They needed to call 911 in the 713 of Houston, the final 7:33 a defensive debacle as they allowed the Rockets to score 26 points. It's not a big deal. It scales out to only 165 a game.
At least they don't play in Oklahoma City any time soon … unless Friday is considered soon. Uh-oh.
With the regular season more than 20% done, the Lakers would be happy to have such a winning percentage on the road.
If they lose Wednesday in New Orleans, they might as well fly three hours on their team jet instead of one and accept the fine from David Stern for not showing up in Oklahoma.
"First of all, we've got to become a good home team and I don't think we're there either, so it doesn't matter where we're playing the game right now," Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni said.
Tough to argue.
Bryant took a lot of shots (31) on his way to 39 points and also missed some important ones, not to mention blown defensive assignments down the stretch, part of an "up and down" game, D'Antoni said.
Howard struggled in yet another Hack-a-Howard situation, making five of 10 from the line while being intentionally fouled in the fourth quarter. Overall, he made eight of 16.
Gasol sat out because of knee tendinitis after being benched most of the fourth quarter in the Lakers' loss to Orlando on Sunday. He dropped hints about his knees the last two weeks, wearing tendinitis bands on them and then revealing they bothered him since training camp.
He said the "day-to-day" terminology affixed to him by the team was "kind of funny."
"I'm not guessing that it's going to be two days and the knees are going to feel wonderful all of a sudden. That would be kind of unrealistic," he said.
Gasol will also sit out Wednesday's game for sure. There's a big question mark after that, as if the Lakers aren't already dealing with the vagaries of Nash's injury.
They'll keep trying to pick up the pieces, especially after leading by 17 in the second quarter and 13 in the fourth.
"We're close. We're real close," D'Antoni said. "I really believe that we're closer than what most people would say. but we've got some tightening up to do."
Sure, if tightening up involves not allowing 21 offensive rebounds, not committing 18 turnovers and capitalizing when an opponent's star player makes three of 19 shots (James Harden, 15 points).
Bryant missed a 21-footer with 1:18 left, was long on a driving layup with 59.9 seconds left and, the final straw, missed a three-point attempt with 3.9 seconds left and the Lakers down two.
"We've just got to play a little better down the stretch," he said.
Bryant also caused confusion on the Lakers' defense by switching unexpectedly onto other opposing players.
"The intentional fouling on Dwight puts a lot of pressure on our defense to hold teams down four or five consecutive possessions," he said.
They couldn't do it. They're now 8-10. Six of their next seven games are on the road.
Time to worry? D'Antoni was asked that exact question while he sat and spoke with reporters after the game.
"I can't jump off this stool face-first," he quipped, his team already having done a fourth-quarter face plant on his behalf.