The defending champions march to town on Tuesday, but it's not just what has become a very routine drubbing of the Lake Show that's the goal. It's one of the great historical marks in NBA history. The Warriors are looking to beat the 1994-1995 Houston Rockets' record of wins to start the season, aiming at 16 victories with yet another over the Lakers. L.A. could very well fend off being a footnote in time, but quite frankly, the prospects for deflection don't look very good.
The Warriors have been laying waste to the league, like a team of psychopath competitor Kobe Bryants in his prime. They currently own a +14.4 point differential, which is six points better than the next team, the San Antonio Spurs. They haven't lost a regular season game at home, where tomorrow's contest will take place, since last January. Golden State is led by arguably the league's best player, an insane debate considering that LeBron James still lives, breathes and dominates. This is a veteran team with years of continuity, an offensive system buoyed by the NBA's best shooting squad, a vicious, tenacious defense and the confidence that no lead is too insurmountable.
They cannot be stopped. They are basketball robot assassins from the future, here to take away every other team's morale and decimate ankles. For a young, inexperienced team like the Lakers, they're the worst possible matchup. Victory isn't assured, but it feels inevitable. The sad thing is, it might not be the last historic mark the Lakers leave this season. Inevitability looks like it's a theme. Kobe Bryant's almost certain retirement. Byron Scott's dismissal. 55+ losses. One of the worst seasons in Lakers history.
Friday night, I went to the Lakers-Raptors game at Staples Center. It had been two seasons since I had attended a game in Downtown LA, far removed from Pau Gasol tearing down nightly double-doubles and Kobe throwing up wild fadeaways that somehow found the bottom of the net. Seeing the game live, the tenor and mood of the building felt markedly different. The crowd was excited for a Friday night contest, there's no doubt about that. However, the air of acceptance was there. The sense that "this is a bad, bad team with young guys that will make mistakes" floated through the building. I've seen dozens of games with some very excellent Lakers teams at STAPLES. Every turnover was met with disappointment and the audience hung onto every clanged three-pointer like it was their last great regret. There was a palpable intensity with every possession. The defeats were personal. There wasn't hope or anticipation. There was expectation.
L.A. fans regularly get hammered for being late to games (you deal with the traffic) or being fair weather, but those that live here and sit in the midst of Lakerdom know that the real fan base is filled with some of the most knowledgeable hoop heads in the country. With a rebuilding team filled with rookies and veterans whose presence seem to barely move the needle towards victory, the atmosphere was heavier on Friday night. Gravity was stronger. The notion that the Lakers could lose wasn't upsetting. It felt inevitable.
Sure enough, a defeat was the conclusion at the sounding buzzer. Down just three points, the Lakers blew seemingly every defensive assignment as rookies and veterans alike threw up ill-advised shots that caromed into Toronto's hands each time. Yes, the crowd popped with every Kobe possession and as the score closed closer and closer to a tie. But as the final score echoed from PA Announcer Lawrence Tanter's microphone, the crowd didn't hang their heads in defeat. They left, as if they knew the outcome the whole time.
The Lakers seem to be careening towards a historic season, for all the wrong reasons. A Tuesday night loss could be, and should be, one of the first milestones of that rockslide.
--Follow this author @TheGreatMambino