LOS ANGELES -- Byron Scott tried to find the right words.
"Have you ever been to the zoo?" the Los Angeles Lakers coach asked Friday.
That eyebrow-raising response marked the beginning of a long-winded answer to a query about why these Lakers would look at any team as an easy win, as the Lakers did in their 120-119 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves at Staples Center.
Scott said he had warned his three-win Lakers not to look at the now four-win Timberwolves that way. He said he warned them during shootaround in the morning, then before the game, then during halftime.
And yet, according to Scott, those warnings went unheeded.
Which brings us back to the zoo.
"Do you ever go see the gorillas, the elephants, the lions and the monkeys, and they're looking right back at you?" Scott asked. "That's what Minnesota was doing. They were looking right back at us."
They looked at the Lakers, now 3-13, as an easy target -- and rightfully so.
"There's nobody in this ..." Scott continued.
He began to utter an R-rated, four-letter expletive, pausing only before reciting the final syllable.
Perhaps he paused because he realized that he needed to somehow appear steady during these most turbulent times. Or perhaps he paused because he thought the league would fine him.
But, make no mistake, at no point during the worst start in Lakers' franchise history has Scott ever publicly come unglued in the way he did after Friday's loss.
And just after he paused before reciting that final, fateful syllable, Scott's breath turned to fire. He raised his voice, all but shouting. He pounded the table before him in the postgame news conference. He beat his hands into it four times -- hard.
"There's nobody in this league that we should be looking at thinking, 'This is an easy win,' " he boomed, beating the table as he spoke. "Period."
Was this rock bottom? So far, yes. It's still November. It can -- and probably will -- get worse.
But the Lakers had circled this game as one they could definitely win, which they won't be able to do much this season, especially in the Western Conference.
They shot 53.9 percent as a team.
They had an eight-point lead with 5:03 left in the fourth.
Then they fell apart, Bryant missed a last-second 3-pointer, and the Lakers lost.
"We looked at them like they were inferior to us," Scott said. "That's the bottom line."
He used the phrase "lack of focus" six times. He cited "bone-head plays."
So did Bryant.
"We were just lazy," Bryant said. "We were lazy defensively. We cut corners."
He added, "We are shooting ourselves in the foot."
Timberwolves rookie Zach LaVine scored 28 points on 11-of-14 shooting off the bench, a spectacular performance for the UCLA product.
"I was playing against my childhood idol," LaVine said of Bryant, "and I'm really, really surprised he missed that [final] shot. That scared me."
While LaVine spoke, his teammate Corey Brewer shouted, "He's the biggest Kobe fan and he beat his a-- tonight."
The Timberwolves won't have much to celebrate this season, but the Lakers certainly weren't expecting any celebrating from the visitor's locker room Friday.
"We know this was supposed to be a win for us," said Lakers guard Nick Young, who scored 16 off the bench. "Playing against a wounded team and they're all young, we knew what we had to do. We've let a lot of games slip this way."
Johnson recalled hearing Scott's warning.
"They played exactly how we thought they were going to play," Johnson said. "They kept coming. They never let up. They didn't feel like the game was over when we went on a little run. They continued to play.
"And like [Scott] said before shootaround, they were looking at us as an opportunity to win. We didn't necessarily take that serious and execute like we should have."
All of which led to Scott blowing his stack.
"You can't play good, hard-nosed basketball one night," Scott said, "and look at the opponent the next night and say, 'Oh, we've got an easy one tonight.' It doesn't work that way in this sport. You'll get you're a-- kicked doing that."
There's a segment of the Lakers' fan base that is no doubt pleased, for every Lakers loss is another step closer toward the chance at a higher draft pick next summer, toward a tantalizing prospect who could help right this sinking ship.
For now, there is only frustration and convoluted metaphors about zoo animals.
"Sooner or later, you get tired of getting the crap beat out of you and you start manning up and doing the things you're supposed to do," Scott said.
Can he get through to his players?
"Definitely," he said.
So Friday was just an anomaly?
Yes, Scott said. He says he believes they can fix things with more effort and more focus.
"But tonight," he said, "that was about the worst we've played as far as being focused and ready to play."
With that, he got up and left. There was nothing more to say.