In the five games the Los Angeles Lakers played leading up to Friday’s game against the Washington Wizards, they won by an average of 4.6 points. Sure, wins are wins but they made things harder on themselves than they needed to be and apparently they felt the same way because on Friday, they left no margin for error.
The Lakers led the Wizards by as much as 39 points after trailing by 11 early on in the game. Once the Lakers took the lead, they never looked back and handily beat Washington 125-103.
The Lakers have won games by more than 20 points a few times this season (four times to be exact), but the timing of this one is what made it significant. After the game, LeBron James said the Lakers’ recent stretch of close games inspired their blowout win against Washington.
“We just want to learn from our previous situations,” James said. “We’ve had leads before, and we did not hold that lead. We did not keep the pressure going, and we’ve learned from that. We want to continue to learn from that.
“The greatest teacher in life is experience, and we’ve had times where we’ve had leads and we didn’t play as well as we would like to, and tonight we learned from that and we got better.”
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel praised his team for stepping up and taking care of business after narrowly escaping a few of their previous games because of a loss in focus in the second half.
“There are times where we build a first-half lead and then don’t take the game as seriously as we should in the second half because we have a big lead, and we let teams back in it, and I challenged our guys to improve that element of our team, and they came out on a 19-2 run to start the third. Stretches like that, that allows you to manage our main guys’ minutes a little bit better,” Vogel sad.
A lot of the teams the Lakers have played recently are less talented than them on paper and are much further down in the standings than they are, but Quinn Cook said they aren’t in a position to play down to their opponent even with the best record in the NBA.
“We know we get everybody’s best shot, so we can’t take a night off,” Cook said. “Doesn’t matter if a team is top of the West or bottom of the West, or vice versa in the East ... We now we’re going to get everybody’s best shot, so we’ve got to come out prepared, got to come out hungry, and we’ve done that all season long.”
Cook was the latest Lakers player to acknowledge the culture in the locker room that has helped them stay level-headed during their hot streak.
“It’s easy to get complacent, but our leaders and our coaches won’t let us do that. They demand greatness every single day, and it starts from the top and trickles through the whole organization. It’s been fun to be a part of so far.”
The Lakers will face their biggest test yet in December, when they’ll see teams like the Milwaukee Bucks, Denver Nuggets and, of course, the LA Clippers. Hopefully they’ll continue to build good habits because they can’t afford to have lapses in effort against teams looking to leapfrog them in the standings.