The Los Angeles Lakers knew they would receive an early test in how they were going to cope without Andrew Bynum with back-to-back road games against two perennial Western Conference powerhouse teams.
Things haven't gotten off to a good start.
After suffering a tough loss against the reigning NBA champs, the Lakers (27-13) hope to regroup against the Dallas Mavericks on Friday.
Los Angeles has split its first four games without center Andrew Bynum, who injured his knee on Jan. 13 against Memphis. Bynum, who was averaging a 13.1 points and a team-leading 10.2 rebounds, is expected to miss about two months, and his absence leaves the Lakers without one of their most consistent players outside star Kobe Bryant.
Bryant, who is averaging 27.4 points, has been scoring well above that mark recently, averaging 33.0 points his last six games and 31.0 points in the four since Bynum's injury. He had 29 points on 12-of-27 shooting in Los Angeles' 103-91 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday.
Bryant also had 12 rebounds and five assists, but he matched a career high with nine of the Lakers' season-high 22 turnovers. Coach Phil Jackson, though, noted there was plenty of blame to be spread.
"I'm not going to fault Kobe at all. He had the turnovers; they were credited to him. But it was other things that went on there," Jackson said.
The Lakers were outscored 31-12 in the third quarter, erasing their nine-point halftime lead, and their 22 turnovers led to 27 San Antonio points.
"When you have a hard quarter you really have to rebuild energy and momentum all over again," Bryant said. "As a young team tonight was a good lesson ... in how quickly momentum can change during a game."
This was not how Los Angeles had hoped to start a road-heavy stretch of its schedule. Including Wednesday's game, the Lakers play just three of their next 17 games at home.
Los Angeles now visits the Mavericks (28-13), who have split their last four games, but have won nine of their last 11 overall.
Dallas is coming off a 102-95 win over the Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday. Devin Harris led the Mavs with 23 points and nine assists while Josh Howard had 21 points and 12 rebounds and Dirk Nowitzki added 20 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
Dallas outscored Charlotte 30-17 in the opening quarter and nearly led the entire game.
"We lost a lot of games we feel we should have won," Nowitzki said. "I think we still have some work to do but if you look at our record we're right there with everybody else so it's not like we lost a lot of ground. We still have a lot of things to work on."
Jerry Stackhouse left the game early after re-injuring a strained right hamstring. According the Mavericks' official Web site, their top reserve is unlikely to play Friday.
Dallas has won two straight against the Lakers and four of five. They have won three straight at home against them. The Mavericks handed the Lakers their worst home loss - a 108-72 rout on March 11 - since they moved from Minnesota to Los Angeles in the last meeting between the teams.
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