Much has been made about how good the opponents the Los Angeles Lakers have beaten this season are or aren’t, and the team will indeed have to get better in games against contenders if they want to, well, contend for an NBA title this year.
But this season isn’t without promising markers for L.A., with perhaps the most promising being that one of the most veteran-heavy teams in the league has (so far) avoided fatigue and letdowns to have success in one of the most tiring scenarios on the schedule: back-to-back games.
The Lakers have 14 back-to-backs this season (28 games total). In those scenarios, the team is so far 11-0, and will look to make it 12-0 when they face the Brooklyn Nets this evening following their 100-92 win over the New York Knicks last night.
For the second-oldest team in the league — the Lakers’ average age of 29.1 years old trails only the Houston Rockets in life experience — that’s quite the accomplishment, and it’s probably a credit to how seriously this team has taken their “one game at a time” mindset.
That’s an overused cliche in the sports world, but for the Lakers this season it does seem to be a genuine approach, with the team moving on to the next opponent as soon as they hit the postgame locker room.
“Now,” said Lakers forward LeBron James when asked after the game when he starts to think about Brooklyn on a back-to-back scenario, although he didn’t want to reveal too much of what his actual thoughts about the Nets are (via Spectrum SportsNet):
“I don’t want to tip our hand just yet. But as soon as I came in here (to the locker room) I started thinking about tomorrow night’s game, so I’m looking forward to it,” James said.
His co-star Anthony Davis was a bit more forthcoming in his thoughts on Brooklyn during his walk-off interview with Mike Trudell:
“They’re a team that’s playing well. Obviously Kyrie (Irving) is back, and he helps their lineup. They’re a team that can shoot the ball. I’m not sure if [DeAndre Jordan] is back with his finger, but they have Jarrett Allen in the paint who can block shots and is a lob threat, and then they surround it with shooters,” Davis said.
The Nets (who are 18-24 so far this season) may have players known for shooting, as Davis alludes to, but they haven’t exactly excelled at making this season, as he’ll surely see when the Lakers do their film walkthrough and scouting report breakdown this morning.
Brooklyn actually ranks third-to-last in the NBA in 3-point percentage (33.2%). For context, the Lakers rank 11th at 35.9%. That may not seem like a huge difference — and any team can get hot for one game — but it is a meaningful one. And regardless, the Nets aren’t a test Davis thinks is insurmountable.
“It’s going to be another tough task, but if we come in and do what we want to do defensively, we should walk out with a win,” Davis told Trudell.
If the Lakers can do that, they’ll keep one of the best streaks of their season alive, and continue to show how locked in they are on treating each game as it’s own challenge.
Notes and Updates
- The Lakers appear to be mostly healthy at this point (UPDATE: Not exactly, as JaVale McGee is now out with flu-like symptoms. Dwight Howard will reportedly start in his place). Davis was originally listed as questionable to play against Brooklyn because he’s still recovering from injury, but will play, and Rajon Rondo and Kyle Kuzma are expected to join him. Before the Knicks game, Lakers Head Coach Frank Vogel spoke about that health, and what it means for the rotation.
“It’s an exciting time for us, because we are whole, so there is not enough minutes for everyone to go around,” Vogel told reporters on Spectrum SportsNet. “I think what Kuz was able to do with AD out, and really find a rhythm, I think that’s the stretch that he needed to kind of get going. And with this year’s team, this year’s system, and now integrating AD back after Kuz has had that kind of success, I feel like we’re in a position for him to settle into his role more than he has all season.”
- On a semi-related note, while speaking to reporters after the game last night, Vogel said the Lakers are looking to be “opportunistic” about getting Kuzma more minutes at three now that Davis is mostly back — something they did against the Knicks in at least one spurt — but indicated that they will mostly do when other teams go big.
- One of my passion projects the last two years now has been assembling a trade deadline tracker that lets all of you keep track of the latest rumors as they come in. While it hasn’t been as active as last year — no AD trades on the horizon will do that — I still hope you find it useful as a resource, because I know it helps me remember the context for everything and read between the lines. You can check it out here if you’re interested.
The Lakers will tip against the Nets at 5:00 p.m. PST, and the game will be televised nationally on TNT, and locally on Spectrum SportsNet.