These are the games where all heads normally turn to Kobe Bryant.
Regardless of title — opponent, teammate, fan or hater — everyone in attendance anticipates Bryant's time in the crunch for the Lakers, successful or not.
But without him, you get a game like Friday's between the Lakers and Memphis Grizzlies, and a score that didn't favor the home team at Staples Center.
Zach Randolph was the man on the spot and he delivered with several late plays to push Memphis to an 89-86 victory.
It left the Lakers with a 4-7 record and nothing to do about it while Bryant recovers from a torn Achilles' tendon.
After watching their animated effort Friday, easily above satisfactory against a veteran team, it made you wonder how much better the Lakers would be with a healthy Bryant.
"We'd be better than 4-7," said Blake, who missed two shots in the final minute. "Obviously Kobe would make a huge impact on us."
So they wait. And lose. A painful cycle for them.
How bad were things for the depleted Lakers? Even their TV announcer played hurt.
Longtime analyst Stu Lantz hoarsely provided insights despite uncooperative vocal cords Friday.
"Just laryngitis," Lantz said. "I'll be ready by Sunday."
The Lakers will too against Detroit, presumably.
They might want to study their recent poor efforts against post players.
Anthony Davis started it a week earlier with a career-high 32 points. Then the highly unheralded Timofey Mozgov tied his career-high with 23 points Wednesday.
Randolph scored 28 (14 in the fourth quarter) against them Friday, continually beating Jordan Hill from the right baseline in the final minutes. Hill's defense was good; Randolph's outside touch and power drives to the basket were better.
Three big men with three big games over the last week?
"Zach's done that over the last 10 years. He's a load," Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni said. "I don't think it's a pattern. I think it happens every once in a while, but we'll have to watch it."
The Lakers had their chances, including a three-point shot by Blake with 12.9 seconds left that would have tied the score at 87-87.
"It felt good," Blake said. "I thought it was going in, but it was just a little short."
Blake had nine points and 10 assists. Jodie Meeks had 25 points and Nick Young had 18 off the bench.
There was nobody to take over for the Lakers.
"We're competing," said Pau Gasol, who had 10 points and 13 rebounds. "That's something we need to continue to do, and the results will come."
The Lakers had the same starting lineup a third consecutive game, a hint of continuity for a team desperately seeking some.
The Lakers returned to normal in attendance, drawing a capacity crowd of 18,997 after failing to draw a sell out for the first time since 2006 a few days earlier against New Orleans.
And fans didn't leave without cheering for Bryant.
They chanted his name when he walked onto the court during a timeout to present a $150,000 check from the Lakers to the Philippine Red Cross to help recovery efforts from the recent typhoon.
There is still no timetable for Bryant's return. There is also no timetable for the Lakers' consistency.
"I thought we played as hard as we could play," D'Antoni said, and he wasn't wrong about it.
But the reality is there in the Western Conference standings, the Lakers more toward the bottom than the top.
Twitter: @Mike_BresnahanCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun