Although Kobe Bryant is among the best clutch players in the NBA, the superstar has been unable to carry the Los Angeles Lakers to victories recently.
Bryant and the Lakers look to avoid their first four-game losing streak in three seasons when they face the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday night.
Bryant is among the league leaders with 27.7 points per game and averaged 33.3 in the last three contests, but was unable to prevent a loss in any of them. Los Angeles (48-18) has dropped three in a row for the first time since Jan. 23-27, 2008.
Playing despite a stomach illness, Bryant scored 34 on Sunday, but missed a 20-footer as time expired and Los Angeles fell 96-94 to Orlando to finish 0-3 on an eastern road swing.
"I didn't release it the way I really wanted to so I tried to compensate for it because I felt the ball slipping," Bryant told the Lakers' official Web site. "That is my shot. You give that to me 10 times and I make it nine times."
Los Angeles has not lost four in a row since April 8-13, 2007.
"I'm worried about what we can do to win ball games, I'm not worried about streaks," said forward Pau Gasol, who averaged 12.5 points in his previous four games before scoring 20 on Sunday.
The Lakers have dropped three straight for the first time since Gasol arrived in a trade Feb. 1, 2008.
Los Angeles was on the verge of winning its fifth in a row over Toronto on Jan. 24, but Bryant missed a shot as time expired in a 106-105 defeat. Bryant finished with 27 points, a career-high 16 rebounds and nine assists, but Raptors forward Hedo Turkoglu came through by drawing a foul on Gasol and hitting two free throws with 1.2 seconds left.
Turkoglu missed a 114-101 loss to Philadelphia on Sunday with a sore ankle and is questionable for Tuesday, when the Raptors try to sweep the Lakers for the first time.
Toronto (32-29), though, has lost seven straight road games in the series, and the Lakers are a conference-best 29-5 at home.
The Raptors open a four-game western swing with All-Star forward Chris Bosh in the lineup, but his return Sunday after missing seven games due to a sprained ankle and stomach virus was not enough for Toronto to avoid a fifth loss in six games.
"They were more focused than we were," Bosh said after scoring 12 points and grabbing 12 rebounds.
With a one-game lead over Miami for sixth place in the Eastern Conference, the slumping Raptors need to re-focus if they are going to reach the postseason for the first time since 2007-08.
"There's not that much margin for error right now," forward Antoine Wright said. "You lose a game like this, you can go from fifth (seed) to seventh or even eighth. You don't want to be fighting to get back in the hunt. We've got to figure some things out."
The Raptors haven't been able to figure out Bryant in Los Angeles. He averaged 43.4 points in the last five meetings at Staples Center, scoring a career-high 81 on Jan. 22, 2006.
The Lakers are looking to reach 30 home wins for the third straight season.