The Los Angeles Lakers continue to play solid defense, especially at home, despite still learning coach Mike Brown's system amid a busy schedule.
That defensive prowess could get a stiff test Tuesday night at Staples Center from the improving Phoenix Suns as these Pacific Division rivals begin their season series.
No team played more in the season's first 15 days than Los Angeles (6-4). The Lakers, whose first two-day break doesn't come until next week, opened with back-to-back losses but have since won six of eight.
"We're tired, and we're going to stay tired," forward Pau Gasol said. " ... We knew it was going to be a challenge. We knew we were going to face adversity at first. We're all making an effort, and we know it's going to pay off at the end. ... Two days off? It'll be a shock to our bodies."
Still adapting to Brown's defensive-minded system after so many years under Phil Jackson, the Lakers are allowing 90.7 points per game and 41.8 percent shooting to lead the Western Conference in both categories. Those averages dip to 85.9 points and 40.0 percent at home, where Los Angeles has won six straight.
"It's tough. We've got to learn it through the games," Kobe Bryant said of the new defense.
The Lakers are hosting a Phoenix team which had finished among the league's top five in scoring in every season since Steve Nash's return in 2004-05.
The Suns (4-4) aren't near the top this season at 94.9 points per game but may be finding their groove. They've won two straight and three of four, scoring more than 100 in each victory after not doing so once in their first four games.
Phoenix is coming off its best offensive effort, hitting 55.8 percent from the field in a 109-93 win over Milwaukee on Sunday.
"We are making open shots. We are also getting a little better pace and tempo throughout the game, a little bit of cohesion," said Nash, averaging 11.8 assists in the past four games. "It is taking us some time and I think you could have predicted that, but I think we are getting better."
Nash has shot 69.2 percent from the field this month - best in the NBA along with teammate Marcin Gortat, who is also 27 of 39 from the field in January.
"Steve is doing Steve, man," forward Channing Frye said. "Everybody said, 'Aw, he looks old and he needs to this or that.' You can't say nothing about him. He gets the job done."
Nash totaled 40 points and 33 assists in two road games against the Lakers last season. Phoenix won one and pushed Los Angeles to three overtimes in the other, overcoming a 21-point deficit in the second half only to lose 139-137 on March 22 in the teams' last matchup.
Bryant scored 42 points - his most in any game over the past 23 months - and he's averaged 30.6 in the last 19 meetings as the Lakers have gone 14-5, including the 2010 Western Conference finals.
He had at least 30 points in three straight games before scoring 26 in a 90-82 win over Memphis on Sunday. The Lakers overcame a season-high 27 turnovers by holding the Grizzlies to 40.9 percent from the field and outrebounding them 53-34.
"I have to give our guys credit for playing good, solid defense in the half court," Brown said.
The Suns also have been playing good defense, allowing averages of 91.5 points and 42.4 percent shooting.