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Lakers vs. Thunder Preview: Can L.A.’s winning streak continue on the road?

After being the beneficiaries of a home-heavy start to the season, the Lakers will pack their bags and hit the road for their second road trip of the year. Their first stop? Oklahoma City, in a rematch they will need to play much better in to extend their win-streak.

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Oklahoma City Thunder v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Like Animal and Hawk, Jack Kerouac and Mad Max before them, the Los Angeles Lakers are about to leave their homes behind and hit the road, a destination that, up until to this point, has been foreign to them.

When excluding their first “away” game against the Clippers on opening night, only four of the team’s first 14 games have come on the road. That’s tied for the second fewest amount of away games of any Western Conference team this season, with only the Phoenix Suns playing fewer.

Even in the instances in which the team has left the confines of Staples Center, they have not had to venture very far. According to Positive Residual, the Lakers have traveled the second fewest miles (5,003) in the entire league to this point. The Warriors, who lead the league in this category heading into Friday’s slate of games, have traveled 12,061 miles in comparison.

Positive Residual

The Lakers can only play who is in front of them, and they’ve taken care of business so far during their home-heavy slate as they climbed to the top spot in the standings. That’s all they can do for now, and those wins they’ve accrued to this point could prove a warm cushion as they head into winter where the team’s schedule will undoubtedly get more difficult, injuries may transpire (knock on wood) and a rash of road games are coming their way.

This past Tuesday, the Lakers once again did what they were supposed to do by beating the Oklahoma City Thunder, 112-107. On Friday, they will have another chance to do so, but this time on the road. It’s the first stop on a four-game trip that will see the team play three contests within a four day stretch. A test the team sounds like they are ready for.

“We’ve been good on the road thus far, but we want to make sure to keep it going,” Anthony Davis told reporters after practice on Thursday. “Obviously (we’re playing) four teams that are more than capable of beating us, and we want to make sure that we come out of this road trip 4-0.”

For a mostly veteran team, the mental approach should not waver playing on the road compared to at home. But physically, it will be interesting to see how head coach Frank Vogel susses out his rotations and minutes within the team’s first real trek out of Los Angeles.

The Lakers did receive some fortunate news however, that should help in the distribution of playing time and workload, as Kyle Kuzma is expected to play when the team arrives in Oklahoma City. Kuzma received a gnarly looking gash within/near his eye after the Thunder’s Darius Bazley inadvertently tagged Kuzma’s face while going up for a shot attempt, resulting in what the team listed as an “eye abrasion.”

Despite Kuzma being forced to miss the majority of the game due to the abrasion, the team was still able to hold on and secure the win in his absence. Still, Kuzma’s scoring punch off the bench was sorely missed against the Thunder, as they outscored the Lakers’ reserves by 30 points in their Tuesday matchup. Dennis Schroder’s 31-point explosion off the pine single-handedly eclipsed Los Angeles’ second unit, an area they will need to counteract this go around.

In terms of what the Lakers will need to keep doing well in order to go up 2-0 in the season series, continuing to shoot the 3-ball well would be a nice start. After a freezing-cold debut to the season from behind the arc, the team has slowly thawed away the ice, as they are nearing the middle of the pack in terms of long-distance efficiency.

The team collectively went 14-31 (45.2%) from behind the arc in their previous game against the Thunder, who heading into the game were holding their opponents to the third lowest 3-point% in the league according to Cleaning the Glass. Hopefully this recent string of good shooting will be a trend that continues and follows the team on the road.

This will be yet another game the Lakers “should” win. But as is the case against any professional team in the NBA, there are no sure things in this league.

And without the support from their fans and the simple advantage of sleeping within one’s own bed, this contest against the Thunder could prove more challenging than their previous encounter this week. The same goes for every road contest where the opposition fires off their best shot, looking to knock off the team with the NBA’s best record.

For the first time in years the Lakers are the hunted, and they will need to navigate this notion in both familiar and foreign territory in order to maintain the claim as the team to beat. This road trip will be a good test to see if they can.

Notes and Updates

The Lakers will take on the Thunder at 5:00 p.m. PST, and the game will be televised on Spectrum SportsNet locally.

You can follow Alex on Twitter at @AlexmRegla. For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts.

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