So far this season, the Los Angeles Lakers have lost all three of their absolute circle-your-calendar type games (twice to the Clippers, once to the Milwaukee Bucks). Such matchups make for incredible fun leading up to them and as they’re happening, but if they don’t go your way, it feels like a Draymond Green kick straight to the nuts.
Dwight Howard understood this after the Lakers’ latest such loss, but reminded fans that this team still has plenty to play for:
Dwight Howard said tonight: "Of course we all wanted it. I think everybody in LA that’s a Lakers fan wanted to see us win tonight. ... We want to be the team that’s holding up the trophy. When we do that, nobody will remember the game we lost on Christmas."— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) December 26, 2019
On one hand, Howard is obviously objectively correct, and the Lakers’ priorities extend far beyond any single regular season game — even against such competition as the Clippers and Bucks. But also,
At some point, the Lakers are probably going to have to win one of these games just to put our minds at ease that they actually can come through against the two most likely teams that will get in their way as they vie for a championship.
Where Howard’s point is even more prescient is when you think about what will have to happen if the Lakers hope to even contend for a championship. In all three of these games, LeBron James hasn’t looked up for the athleticism he’ll face at the very top of the league.
Now, against the Clippers Wednesday, James and Anthony Davis for that matter were dealing with a couple injuries. James apparently aggravated a groin injury by way of Patrick Beverley’s knee and Davis, well, Davis has a bit of a list of things not quite right with his body.
The Lakers are going to have to balance their regular season goals with the bigger picture and, on occasion, sit one of their superstars for a few stretches here and there to make sure they can perform at a higher level than we saw on Christmas.
How they do that will be interesting to watch and absolutely critical to get right, both for the playoffs and hopefully a championship run, and for other games fans have circled on their calendars moving forward.