LOS ANGELES -- Confidence was high coming into the night for the Los Angeles Lakers. As bad as this season has been, they actually had something to smile about for the first time in forever and were hoping to keep it up with a little celebrating of their own as they hosted the New Orleans Pelicans.
L.A. was coming off its most impressive win of the season in Portland on Monday and had the chance to tie its longest win streak of the season at three as long as it took care of the struggling Pelicans who limped into Staples Center, losers of eight straight.
"They never quit trying," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said before the game, asked to reflect how his team was finally turning it around. "Sometimes things click and guys play good together at the right time and that gives you confidence.
"It's just taken awhile."
The same could be said about Tuesday night's game, a 132-125 loss.
The Lakers trailed by 12 points after the first quarter and by as many as 21 in the third before mounting a comeback. They had the deficit cut to 10 heading into the fourth and all the way down to four only a couple of minutes into the final quarter after a MarShon Brooks basket, but the Pelicans quickly doubled their lead back to eight.
The margin stayed in that range before the Lakers got five straight points from Jordan Farmar to cut it to five with 3:38 left.
The Lakers' small-ball lineup worked in spurts, giving the team a chance to score in bunches in the open court when it created stops with its activity on the other end.
The problem was, as it has often been this season, there was no consistency to their effectiveness on defense, which put a lot of pressure on their offense to perform at peak levels to have a chance.
So even though L.A. scored in the 120s, ultimately two missed 3-pointers from Kent Bazemore and Farmar in the final minutes ended up doing the Lakers in because, of course, they also allowed the Pelicans to score in the 130s.
They fought to get back into it against New Orleans, but it proved too little, too late, as the Lakers fell to 21-40.
How it happened: Pau Gasol scored the first 13 points of the game for the Lakers but was still outscored by Anthony Davis 17-15 after the opening quarter. It was an omen of what was to come, as L.A.'s offensive power just couldn't match its defensive shortcomings.
What it means: This one is sure to take some wind out of the Lakers' sails. Even though L.A. was on the second night of a back-to-back, the Pelicans were on the last day of an eight-day trip and should have been ripe for the picking.
Hits: Gasol scored a season-high 29 points on 10-for-15 shooting to go with 12 rebounds and four assists.
Farmar started the second half at shooting guard and finished with 20 points and eight assists.
Xavier Henry looked a bit like his old self in his second game back from his right knee injury, scoring 12 points in 14 minutes to go with two assists and an impressive open-floor dunk.
Bazemore tied his career high with 23 points, including 13 in the third when L.A. tried to get back in the game.
Jodie Meeks scored 17 points on 7-for-12 shooting.
Misses: L.A.'s defense allowed New Orleans to shoot 46-for-77 (59.7 percent).
The Lakers had 14 turnovers leading to 18 points for the Pelicans and were outrebounded 39-30.