With a win over the Houston Rockets on Saturday night, the Los Angeles Lakers improved to 34-8 — 4.5 games ahead of the No. 2 seed Denver Nuggets — and 18-3 on the road, which is the best record away from home in the NBA.
The Lakers also now have the most wins against .500 teams (12) in the league, three of which came in games where they didn’t have Anthony Davis. So, as it turns out, the Lakers don’t have the best record in the Western Conference and second-best record in the NBA solely because they’re 22-1 against teams below .500 teams.
Who could have guessed?
That argument has always rang hollow, but it’s sounded progressively worse as the season has gone on. It’s for that reason LeBron James used his postgame interview on Saturday to call out the critics that still think the Lakers can’t beat playoff teams, and he also explained the role that the locker room’s mentality has played into their record against teams both good and bad (via Spectrum SportsNet):
“No, because we can’t beat teams with winning records. That’s what they say, right?… It’s good wins for us. It’s really good wins for us … It doesn’t matter who we’re playing. It doesn’t matter if it’s a playoff team, not a playoff team, it’s just about that moment right then and there. You want to take that challenge no matter if the team is in the playoffs or the team is not in the playoffs. We lost to a team the other day that was sub-.500, but we don’t go into games saying ‘they’re above .500, they’re below .500. We say ‘this is a team that could beat us if we don’t play to our potential, and that’s how we approach every game. We just try to zero in on that game plan and then move forward. We had a great game plan tonight, the coaching staff gave us a great game plan and we executed.”
That approach has seemingly worked for them so far, as they’ve beaten all but one team in the Western Conference this season: The LA Clippers — and until they beat the Clippers, the team many view as the favorite to win the title, the Lakers’ critics will have something to hang over their head. That’s not to mention the Milwaukee Bucks, who the Lakers lost to in December.
Let’s hope those critics fuel the Lakers to a win over the Clippers when they meet again in less than two weeks, on Jan. 28. If they don’t, the Laker loyal might start to have some questions about their team, too.