The Lakers look at .500 records the same way they treat Pacific Division titles.
But their 100-86 victory over the Sacramento Kings gave them a 7-7 mark that was significant for one reason Sunday.
The team without Kobe Bryant (so far) and Steve Nash (more or less) had the same record through 14 games as last season's alleged dream team.
The franchise that scoffs at anything not in June can smile at something in November. "Amazing, right?" Steve Blake said.
Something close to that.
There wasn't much star power on the court for any big-name musicians who jumped into Staples Center after attending the American Music Awards across the street.
But there was Pau Gasol (20 points, 10 rebounds) and a lot of hustling players, a combination that made the lead singer from LMFAO dance happily during a fourth-quarter timeout.
Xavier Henry had 21 points, one short of his career high, and Jordan Hill had 10 points and 13 rebounds, his fourth double-double in six games since becoming a starter.
The key to the Lakers' three-game winning streak? Not acting like schoolchildren.
"In kindergarten, you share your paste and crayons," Coach Mike D'Antoni said before turning to the present-day Lakers. "They share and they don't care. They don't go in and get a stat sheet, although they're all free agents. I think they've all got great values in the sense that they like their teammates, they like the Lakers and we're trying to win as a team."
Crayons would have been snapped in half and paste purposely spilled last season.
Egos existed uneasily, everybody seemed to get injured and a $100-million payroll disintegrated in a first-round playoff sweep by San Antonio.
Nobody's predicting a playoff spot for these Lakers. Too early. Too risky to do so.
But the Lakers finally found a concept that eluded them the first 10 games. Defense.
The Lakers have held their last four opponents under 100 points.
And people seem ... intrigued?
"It's cool that everyone's happy that we're 7-7, but we want to be better than that," said Blake, who had nine points and 12 assists Sunday.
If nothing else, they're better than Sacramento.
The Kings (4-9) came in with the West's second-worst record and didn't do much to disprove it.
DeMarcus Cousins missed a fastbreak dunk in the first quarter and Luc Mbah a Moute had a fastbreak dunk blocked by Wesley Johnson.
Then it was Ben McLemore's turn to miss a dunk. The first quarter wasn't even halfway over.
Only three Kings scored in double figures: Greivis Vasquez (20 points), Cousins (17) and McLemore (15).
Henry had been quiet the last two weeks for the Lakers, combining for 13 points over four games before his outburst Sunday.
"I know I can score, I know I can play defense hard," he said. "I know I can impact the game a lot of ways, and for me to put it together every night is what my challenge is right now."
The Lakers have a tough time ahead of them, heading out for a three-game trip with a 1-4 record in road games.
Bryant won't play Tuesday at Washington, D'Antoni said. Then come Brooklyn and Detroit, with or more likely without Bryant.
None of the above are off to incredible starts, falling out of the gate with a combined 13-26 record. In fact, Brooklyn's high-cost, low-return story line smells a lot like the Lakers last season.
Not like the Lakers want to revisit their 7-7 mark a year ago, during which Mike Brown was fired, D'Antoni hired and Nash sidelined with the first of many injuries.
This season seems lighter, more breezy with a handful of days left in November. "It's been a fun beginning with some letdowns," Blake said. "But I'm optimistic."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun