The honeymoon period for Mike D'Antoni and the Los Angeles Lakers may already be over.
They could have a tough time avoiding a second consecutive loss Friday night against the Memphis Grizzlies, visiting the Western Conference's top team after a poor performance against the worst.
Los Angeles (6-6) won its first three games after D'Antoni joined the team last Thursday, a few days after being hired to replace Mike Brown. His ongoing recovery from knee replacement surgery delayed his arrival as well as his debut on the Lakers bench, which finally came Tuesday in a 95-90 home win over Brooklyn.
Things didn't go nearly as well the following night even though Los Angeles was playing a Sacramento team which entered with a 2-8 record. The Lakers committed 20 turnovers and allowed a season-worst 54.3 percent shooting in a 113-97 defeat.
"I think you always have a little bit of shock when a guy comes in new, and so you start off all like puppies out there," D'Antoni said of the team's turnaround after he took over. "Now it's back to reality a little bit."
While D'Antoni remains on crutches, it was his star big men who appeared to have trouble moving well Friday in his up-tempo offense.
Dwight Howard had only four field-goal attempts in 41 minutes, finishing with seven points and nine rebounds following a stretch of five straight double-doubles. Pau Gasol had eight points and shot 3 for 10 as the Lakers fell to 0-4 when he fails to score more than 10.
"It seemed like we were a little lethargic for whatever reason," said Kobe Bryant, one of the few bright spots with 38 points as he shot 11 for 20. "We just have to push through it, particularly the second unit, especially while Dwight is in there. You don't have to go to as many pick-and-rolls, really, just dump the ball down to him and let him operate."
It could be tough for Howard to operate effectively against a talented Memphis frontcourt led by Zach Randolph and Gasol's baby brother, Marc. That duo is a major reason Memphis (8-2) is the surprise conference leader.
Randolph has recorded a double-double in every game but scored a season-low 12 on Monday as the Grizzlies had an eight-game winning streak snapped with a 97-92 home loss to Denver.
Memphis hadn't been outrebounded by more than two in any game this season before the Nuggets finished with a 47-33 advantage.
"We have to play hard to win games," said the 7-foot-1 Marc Gasol, who had 16 points but only six boards. "We are not that good to just come out and be casual, make a shot, don't run back and don't rebound because we are not that good."
The Grizzlies had won their previous 15 regular-season home games. One of only five visiting teams to win in Memphis last season was Los Angeles, 116-111 in double overtime March 13.
However, the Lakers join Washington and Sacramento as the only teams without a road win this season at 0-3. Los Angeles, allowing an average of 108.0 points away from home, hasn't started with four consecutive road losses since 1995.
Bryant averaged 30.0 points as the Lakers won these teams' first two matchups last season, then was held to 18 in a 102-96 home loss to the Grizzlies on March 25 in the most recent meeting. Randolph played that game after missing both losses due to injury.
The Lakers are 0-5 this season when Bryant has fewer than five assists.
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