Kobe Bryant didn't even give it a try this time, his flu symptoms and a severely sprained ankle forcing the Lakers star to miss a game for the first time this season.
It was predictably stop and go for the players he left behind.
Ultimately, the Lakers revved it up when they had to Sunday night at Staples Center, pulling away for a 113-102 victory over the Sacramento Kings.
Dwight Howard was a defensive menace and Metta World Peace displayed rare accuracy by making his first eight shots.
Reserves Antawn Jamison and Steve Blake continued to deliver starter-like production, just what the Lakers needed in a game in which they used only seven players.
"Am I tired?" said Howard, who had 12 points, 17 rebounds and five blocks in 40 minutes. "No comment."
Howard appeared energized from the opening tip, logging a double-double by midway through the second quarter.
World Peace eventually cooled down a bit, finishing with 22 points on 10-for-13 shooting.
It was the first time the Lakers won without Bryant and Pau Gasol not playing since the team acquired Gasol in February 2008. Of course, they had both sat out only one other game, the regular-season finale last season against Sacramento.
Bryant played the first quarter against Indiana on Friday before sitting out the rest of the game because he couldn't put pressure on his left ankle. He didn't even join his teammates on the bench against the Kings or speak with reporters, but he did send out a telling one-word tweet Saturday: "#flu."
Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni saluted Bryant for sitting out considering "he's got the flu, his ankle and probably 15 other things going on."
A Lakers spokesman said Bryant was doubtful for the game Monday in Phoenix.
There's no doubt the Lakers need their best player. Soon.
"He has to be well for us to even think about doing anything," D'Antoni said of Bryant.
Howard did manage to delight fans in the second quarter with consecutive alley-oop dunks off passes from Steve Nash and World Peace. Howard has collected at least 12 rebounds in all 14 games since the All-Star break.
"I'm in better shape and I'm being more active on both ends," Howard said.
Jamison contributed 27 points and nine rebounds, and Blake added 16 points, eight assists and five rebounds. They combined to make nine of 15 three-pointers.
"When you're missing a guy like Kobe," Jamison said, "you really have to play together, you really have to rely on your teammates and the last couple of games we have done that."
Blake helped start the decisive run early in the fourth quarter when he shook off a turnover on a bad behind-the-back pass to take a charge from Jason Thompson. Nash then made a 21-foot jumper on the Lakers' ensuing possession, the first points of an 11-0 spurt that gave them a 101-88 lead.
Point guard Isaiah Thomas had 26 points for the Kings, who were playing without center DeMarcus Cousins (left quad bruise). Thomas even scored during a timeout midway through the third quarter, being retroactively awarded two points when officials changed a pair of jumpers to three-pointers.
It wasn't enough.
The Lakers (36-32), with six wins in seven games, crept to within half a game of Houston (36-31) for seventh place in the Western Conference. They suddenly might have greater aspirations than merely making the playoffs.
"Well, I mean, just looking at it real quick, sixth, right?" D'Antoni said when asked how high the Lakers might be able to climb in the standings. "I mean, that seems to be the thing. I wouldn't think anything else but that would be a goal that we would try to get to."
They'll need their top players back to get there.