The Lakers have been fragile all season.

They still are.

Dwight Howard's shoulder couldn't be handled with enough care Wednesday night, and the Lakers' burgeoning optimism was stuffed by a come-from-ahead 92-86 loss to an also-ran Phoenix Suns team that came in lamenting the offseason departure of Steve Nash to the Lakers.

Howard aggravated the labrum tear away from the bone in his right shoulder with 6:57 left in the game when he was stopped from going up for a shot under the basket by Phoenix's Shannon Brown. Howard sat out the rest of the game with an ice pack on the shoulder. He has said he will have to deal with possible aggravations while trying to strengthen other parts of the shoulder to compensate for the injury.

The Lakers led, 78-73, when Howard went out — and they lost the poise and flow that marked their past three games — all victories. The Lakers got stagnant — it didn't help them that Pau Gasol played almost the entire second half because of Earl Clark's foul trouble and then Howard's injury.

The Lakers allowed a season-high 27 points to Phoenix's Michael Beasley, whom the Lakers pursued ardently in trade last season.

Nash's homecoming to Phoenix had the early spotlight — including a video tribute from the Suns to thank him for his contributions over 10 years and two stints with the team. Nash also spent the early part of the day seeing his three kids, who still live in Phoenix with his ex-wife.

"It's a special, special place," Nash said.

But as has been the case lately, Nash ceded his ball-handling role to Kobe Bryant, who piled up nine assists in the first three quarters. Nash didn't have an assist until 3:26 remained in the third quarter, and that gave the Lakers a 64-51 lead — as the same plan worked well again for the Lakers in seeking their fourth consecutive victory.

Instead, Bryant had no assists against two turnovers in the fourth quarter ... and the Lakers crumbled with no offensive structure to lose their eighth consecutive road game. It was the first game on the Lakers' season-long, seven-game trip.

"All things come to an end," Nash said before the game, referring to his years in Phoenix. But the Lakers' road losing streak will have to wait at least until Friday night in Minnesota.

Nash had said before the game he wasn't focusing too much on his Phoenix return as the Lakers tried to maintain "this little bit of momentum."

"We're pretty deep in trying to turn our team around right now, so it's pretty consuming," Nash said.