LOS ANGELES -- The Warriors, playing without two starters, concluded their winless three-game trip with a 97-90 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday.
Golden State (2-5) has dropped four straight and heads home to face Utah on Saturday trying keep things from spiraling out of control while it gets healthy, builds team chemistry and learns how to win.
"It's a long season," Warriors guard Monta Ellis said after totaling 18 points and 10 assists. "We're going to turn that corner eventually. It's just a learning experience right now. ... We're right there, man. I feel strong about my team."
The Warriors played without starting point guard Stephen Curry, who sprained his right ankle on Wednesday against San Antonio and is out indefinitely. He is set to be evaluated Saturday. Starting center Andris Biedrins also missed the game with a sprained right ankle he suffered Wednesday.
The Warriors hung close before caving down the stretch -- which became the pattern throughout the trip.
The Lakers had their way in the second half. Led by 17 points from Kobe Bryant, who finished with 39 points on 28 shots, the Lakers outscored the Warriors 32-19 in the third quarter. That turned Golden State's 39-35 halftime advantage into a 67-58 deficit entering the fourth quarter.
In the fourth quarter, the Lakers ran off 30 more points, making 10 of 19 shots. The Warriors managed 32 points in the final period, thanks largely to eight points and four assists from Ellis. But Golden State didn't manage enough stops.
During the trip, the Warriors allowed an average of 30.3 points in the final 12 minutes.
"We've just got to stick together and continue to try to get over that hump," said forward Dorell Wright. "We're not going to keep being one of those teams that collapse in the third quarter. We just need to keep playing hard."
Forward David Lee had 15 points and 11 rebounds in 37 minutes. In his Golden State debut, guard Nate Robinson logged 31 minutes off the bench. He totaled nine points and four assists.
"I was kind of tired, kind of winded," Robinson said. "Coach said just play your game and have fun, just be yourself. These guys made it easy. ... It's fun. We're young, energetic and play hard."
Andrew Bynum -- who Warriors coach Mark Jackson said "is playing like the second best center in the world" -- entered Friday's game averaging 22.3 points on 60.7 percent shooting.
But Brown silenced the Lakers' hot center. Bynum finished with nine points on 3-for-9 shooting in 35 minutes.
"You may think this is a joke," Jackson said, "but Kwame Brown is more than capable."
Brown had 13 points on 6-for-13 shooting with six rebounds. But he earned his money Friday with his defense against Bynum.
That is exactly why Golden State signed Brown. After striking out on Tyson Chandler and DeAndre Jordan, the Warriors opted for a defensive specialist. Brown is supposed to be the guy that gives the Warriors a shot against dominant opposing big man.
The part that is perhaps most encouraging to the Warriors is that Brown is just rounding into shape. He said he didn't play much basketball this offseason. When Brown finally signed with Golden State, Jackson said the 10-year vet was going to need some time to get his conditioning right.
Brown said his conditioning has improved significantly. Even before Biedrins went down, Brown logged 20-plus minutes in back-to-back games (at Phoenix and at San Antonio) for the first time this season.
Bynum is the second in a rash of dominating opposing big men the Warriors will face. After San Antonio's Tim Duncan and Bynum in back-to-back games, Golden State will have to deal with Utah's Al Jefferson on Saturday and Orlando's Dwight Howard on Thursday.
Golden State likely will need Brown to log big minutes.
"I can find a way to be effective at any weight," Brown said. "But I did want to come in better shape. ... I feel a whole lot better than I did at training camp."
"I let him know I'll never take him out for shooting the basketball," Jackson said. "You can't turn down shots."
Suddenly, first-round pick has turned into a shot maker. Thompson scored eight points on 3-for-6 shooting in the second half against the Spurs, including a couple clutch 3-pointers in the fourth quarter.
Against the Lakers, he knocked down 4 of his first 5 shots. Thompson finished with a career-high 14 points on 6-for-8 shooting in 22 minutes of action.
Thompson seems to have his swagger back on the court. He's looking for his shot, firing without hesitation when open. Gone is the sense of timidity that plagued him the first five-plus games.
"He's a knockdown shooter, and he's got to play with confidence," Jackson said. "It was a welcomed sight for us."
The last three games, Jackson has put his 6-foot-3, 180-pound shooting guard in the post. On several occasions, Ellis got the ball on the low block earlier in the trip against Phoenix's Steve Nash and San Antonio's Tony Parker. Against the Lakers, Jackson posted Ellis up against small forward Matt Barnes.
The results were consistently effective.
Ellis' post game is much better than his size might indicate. He is quick, so he can make a move and get to a spot. He can jump high, with good hang time, so he can get a shot off and a good look. It's a confined work space with limited dribbling, so his suspect handles aren't a problem. And he's gotten much better at passing, so he can use the post to set others up.
"He's a scorer," Jackson said. "He has no limitations on the offensive end of the floor. That's post. That's pick and rolls. That's isolations. That's catch-and-shoot. So I'm going to use him in every form, especially when teams put a smaller guy on him.
"Even when they put a bigger guy (on him) because posting isn't about the size of the guy, it's the skill of the offensive guy. He feels extremely comfortable there and we're going to capitalize on that."