Coach Phil Jackson said it as plainly as he could Tuesday night.
"They've lost that spark, so that's what's missing and people see it," he said of the Lakers before they played host to the New York Knicks.
"We're seeking perfection," Jackson said. "That's what you always try to do, but you're not going to play every game up to par. Sometimes it takes competition to raise that level in these players because they're working hard.
"Games have to have meaning to them. We're trying to make them have meaning every night that they play, and that brings the level up a lot. They've got to get to that (level again)."
The Lakers and the NBA champion Boston Celtics are each on pace to surpass the league record of 72 victories in a season set by the Jackson-coached and Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls in 1995-96.
No other team has won 70 games in a season.
The Lakers went into Tuesday's game with a 20-3 mark and were on pace for a final record of 71-11. The Celtics are 23-2 and on pace for a final mark of 75-7.
"We suck it up on defense, we could do it," Lamar Odom said when asked about winning 70. "(But) we continue to play two games good defensively, three games OK, two games good enough, one game good.
"We shouldn't be playing like that right now. I'm not saying you have to win every game by 20, but there's a certain way you want to go out there. Not necessarily killer instinct, but playing the same way defensively."
Defense is the key, according to Odom. Offensively, they are fine, he said.
"It's like will, energy and effort on every possession," he said. "We know we can score. It doesn't matter what team you put in front of us, we know we can score. We've got 12 guys who can hit shots. We can do it offensively.
"We just have to focus on defense. No one talks about the nose tackle. You don't really get props for it. It's a linebacker mentality. Football. Team defense. Being nasty. ... I'm trying to figure it out. I just think we can get better defensively."
Jackson on Tuesday passed Red Auerbach by coaching in his 1,418th career game with the Lakers and Chicago Bulls.
Jackson is 12th on the NBA's all-time list of games coached. He and the late Auerbach, a former coach and executive with the Celtics, are tied for the most league championships with nine apiece. ---------