The Los Angeles Lakers are coming off a weekend in Las Vegas where they won the NBA In-Season Tournament, having secured the half-a-million-dollar bag for each player along with a banner unveiling scheduled for the next home game. It's easy to forget that they have a three-game road trip starting this Tuesday against the Dallas Mavericks.
Are the Lakers in danger of this first road game being a trap game? Where the team is still basking in their accomplishments, so they don't come with the appropriate energy? Head coach Darvin Ham threw cold water on that theory immediately following the title win for the Lakers.
"Like we handle our business all the time," Ham said postgame when asked how the team will approach Tuesday’s game. "We just stay locked in step. Keep our rhythm together. Understand that, no matter what, we have to be the most competitive, together, accountable team on the floor. And then, within that realm, we have to bring the energy, the effort and the discipline.... We'll be ok, man."
Ham usually says the right thing, and his job is to ensure the team comes with the right focus. And the Lakers should come out with the appropriate energy, given that this game has long-term ramifications.
As we stated in our preview, the winner of this game will own the tiebreaker over the other, so it benefits the Lakers to get the win over an opponent they'll likely be competing with for playoff positioning.Also, this road trip is against all Western Conference teams and the standing are already airtight with 1.5 games separating seed two through six.
It might be a bit too early for standings-watching, but winning is always necessary and more tie-breaking scenarios like the one happening on Tuesday will continue to pop up.
Will there be a hangover following the IST win? We'll know during those opening minutes if the Lakers are getting beat to loose balls, not closing out on shooters and getting thoroughly outrebounded.
The Lakers are In-Season Tournament champs, but if they want to be NBA champs, they'll have to continue racking up wins and rising up the Western Conference standings. They have an opportunity to make a statement by winning on Tuesday in a dominant fashion on the road.
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