The Los Angeles Lakers' downward spiral continued against the well-oiled San Antonio Spurs, who held off a late rally by the visiting team for a 108-105 victory.
The Lakers played close against one of the NBA's top teams on Wednesday night despite the absence of injured big men Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol, but that was little consolation for a team that came into the season with championship aspirations but now finds itself with a 15-20 record after its fifth straight defeat.
Los Angeles trailed by nine at halftime at the AT&T Center in San Antonio and that lead widened to 17 points in the third quarter on a basket by Tony Parker, but the Lakers chipped away at the deficit and got to within three in the closing moments.
Kobe Bryant had a chance to tie the game with time winding down, but his 3-pointer was off the mark as the Spurs got the win to run their record to 28-10 overall and 15-2 at home.
Parker led San Antonio with 24 points on an efficient 10-of-16 from the field, while sixth-man Manu Ginobili added 19 points and eight rebounds.
Kawhi Leonard also made a big contribution, scoring 11 points and playing tough defense on Bryant, who scored a game-high 27 points but misfired on 14 of his 24 field-goal attempts.
Metta World Peace scored 23 points for the Lakers and Earl Clark helped fill his team's void in the middle by scoring 22 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in a losing effort.
High expectations surround the Lakers this season after the offseason acquisitions of Howard, a three-time defensive player of the year who is out with a torn labrum in his right shoulder, and Steve Nash, a two-time league MVP who also missed time earlier in the season due to a leg injury.
The team struggled out of the gates under then-head coach Mike Brown, briefly got on track under interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff, and has suffered from injuries and poor play again since Mike D'Antoni took the reins in late November.
Following their latest loss, the Lakers are now 10-15 with D'Antoni on the sidelines.
In other action on a busy Wednesday night in the NBA, the Toronto Raptors routed the Philadelphia 76ers 90-72, the Utah Jazz topped the Charlotte Bobcats 112-102, the Cleveland Cavaliers cruised past the Atlanta Hawks 99-83, and the Boston Celtics defeated the Phoenix Suns 87-79.
The Milwaukee Bucks surprised the Chicago Bulls 104-96, the Oklahoma City Thunder trounced the Minnesota Timberwolves 106-84, the New Orleans Hornets rallied for an 88-79 win over the Houston Rockets, the Denver Nuggets edged the Orlando Magic 108-105, the L.A. Clippers defeated the Dallas Mavericks 99-93, and the Memphis Grizzlies topped the Golden State Warriors 94-87. EFE