While the Lakers worked their way through four road games in five nights, Coach Mike D'Antoni said he wanted them to become a top-10 team defensively.
Surprisingly, he wasn't laughing when he said it. Maybe the lack of humor was the funny part.
The Lakers own the NBA's second-worst defense, giving up a way-too-friendly 103.4 points per game. If not for young and easily bendable Philadelphia (111.2), the Lakers would be last.
Points in the paint has been a continual issue, whether it's getting manhandled by post players or blitzed by penetrating point guards.
An armful of centers and power forwards — Anthony Davis, Timofey Mozgov, Nene and Amir Johnson — have already set or tied career highs against the Lakers. And who could forget the Lakers giving up 76 points in the paint to Detroit last month?
Kobe Bryant is getting gradually better and Pau Gasol is showing signs of recovery on offense — 16-for-21 shooting over his last two games — but the Lakers will remain outside the playoff periphery if they can't stop anybody.
Right now, they're running a 3.1-point deficit per game, averaging only 100.3 points themselves. Thus, they're excited even when they beat Memphis without Marc Gasol and Mike Conley.
"It was definitely important," Gasol said Tuesday after the Lakers' 96-92 victory. "If you want to win ballgames, you're going to have to shut down teams and do that consistently. For us, it's been up and down."
Better tests will come Saturday at Golden State and Christmas Day against Miami at Staples Center.
Jordan Farmar is not ready
Jordan Farmar was told he would be sidelined at least one more week after seeing a doctor Wednesday for his torn left hamstring.
This was bad news for the Lakers, who had no healthy point guards, and Farmar, who wanted to play Friday against Minnesota.
Farmar has sat out seven games and will not be evaluated again until next Tuesday, the day before the Lakers play Miami. He is averaging 9.2 points and 4.4 assists.
Bryant is getting his legs under him
Bryant keeps talking about the importance of getting his legs under him, comparing his six-game return from a torn Achilles' tendon to an exhibition season.
These games obviously count, and Bryant is starting to show something different almost every game. He drilled a 28-foot three-point basket with the Lakers up only three points late against Memphis. He thought about it for a split second and fired away.
If he had missed, people would have immediately criticized him, a TV broadcaster half-jokingly surmised after the game while interviewing Bryant.
"I'd think after 30,000 [career] points I'd get a break," he said.
Bryant unveiled something new against Memphis, heading to the locker room during his normal rest break toward the end of the first quarter. He said it was an effort to stay warm and he received some physical therapy.
He complained in the Lakers' previous game that his left foot and ankle felt stiff.
He didn't seem affected against Memphis, scoring 21 points on nine-for-18 shooting. Bryant played 33 minutes after playing 32 the previous night against Atlanta.
"It just kind of happened. I felt good though," he said Tuesday. "You've got to crank it up at some point and I'm getting back to being myself."