The Road Warriors

Darius Soriano —  April 23, 2011

Back when I was a kid, if you were to ask me about the road warriors, I would have thought of Hawk and Animal – the devastating tag team wrestling crew whose nickname “The Legion of Doom” always entertained. Yeah, sue me, I like wrestling.

Today, when I think of the road warriors, I think of the Lakers.

Over the past 4 seasons – including this year’s group – the Lakers are 16-17 in playoff road games (for comparison’s sake, the Boston Celtics – the other top level team over this same period – is 12-17 in playoff road games). Think about that for one second. In games where the Lakers travel to the opposing team’s gym and face an amped up crowd in the most hostile enviorinments, they’re nearly .500. When considering that this team is nearly as likely to win on the road as lose – not to mention the fact that over this same period, they’ve clinched 7 series including the 2009 Finals on the road – it’s not a stretch to say that the Lakers are this era’s best road playoff team.

And it all starts with Kobe Bryant. Over at TrueHoop, ESPN Stats & Information has the following nugget:

In true superstar fashion, Kobe Bryant came to play and recorded his second 30-point game this series and 80th of his career. That’s the second-most all-time behind Michael Jordan who did it 109 times. This is really nothing new for Bryant who has excelled in Game Three of a series tied 1-1. Over the last 3 seasons he’s averaged 33.3 points per game while leading the Lakers to four victories (all on the road) in that situation. In fact, for his career Bryant is 7-1 on the road when the series is tied heading into Game Three.

In these games – as close to must win as there are – Kobe’s teams have won at a .875 clip. Also understand, these specific games have proven quite important over the years. Again from ESPN Stats & Information:

Entering this postseason, there have been 175 instances in which a best-of-seven series was tied at one after two games. When the home team won Game Three, it went on to win the series 70.1 percent of the time. When the home team lost Game Three, it went on to win the series only 16.7 percent of the time.

And in order to secure this all important win, Kobe again stepped up last night. He had a tidy line of 30 points on only 20 shots to go along with 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, and a block.  During half time he gave a sneak peak into his mood with short and direct interview that showed a focus that his team lacked in game 1 of this series. If fans were looking for that first hint that the Lakers really were dialed in, they got it last night with Kobe’s performance a barometer for it all.

Of course, Kobe’s not doing it alone. Andrew Bynum could easily be described as this series’ most impactful Laker and Ron Artest has also been his most consistent since the second season began. But, I’d argue that more than ever this is Kobe’s team as this group truly has taken on his personality. In a conversation I had with frequent commenter/contributor to FB&G J.D. Hastings, this particular Laker group really has taken on Kobe’s personality. They’re feisty and won’t back down from anyone. They seem to rise to the occasion in big games and will do anything to earn the victory. Guys like Artest, Barnes, and Blake have been brought in seemingly just because of their past run-ins with Bryant as he’s always had a great respect for guys that go at him and don’t back down. I could go on and on, but you get the point.

In the end, this team is now starting to remind of the championship chasers from the past 3 season. And last night was just another example of Kobe and his mates following through on their reputation as winners on the road. The playoffs may just be getting started, but familiarity from years past sure is nice. And, again, it all starts with Kobe. Below is a quick clip of #24′s night. Enjoy.

Darius Soriano

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34 responses to The Road Warriors

  1. I will say this, sometimes I have more faith in the Lakers when they are on the road. They look like a more focused team than at Staples. Sure, they’re not technically “better” on the road, but considering that they average at least 1 road win per playoff series says a lot about their dominance in the playoffs over the last few years. Since Gasol joined the team, they have 16 playoff road wins in 13 playoff series. They’ve had at least 1 road win in 12 of the 13 series. This is one of the reasons I’m less worried about facing teams without homecourt advantage in the Conference Finals or NBA Finals.

  2. One other fact regarding our road warriors: the Lakers of the Pau Gasol era are 7-1 in road closeout games, including the last five in a row. The only loss was Game 6 of the 2009 2nd Round in Houston. Since then, they won Game 6 in Denver, Game 5 in Orlando, Game 6 in OKC, Game 4 in Utah, and Game 6 in Phoenix.

  3. Kobe & Pau are back

    After scoring only 19 in that nearly-terrible Game Two, Kobe and Pau exploded for 47 points and 16 rebounds. Pau had been terrible in the first two games, but he got 17 last night, and he finally looked like his old self. A good sign for a Lakers team that look unsteady in the first two games of the series. Check out the stats:

    http://sportstatistics.blogspot.com/2011/04/nba-playoffs-night-seven.html

  4. I am going to be interested to see how the media spins this latest Rose performance. He is shooting 35% for the series and has 17 TOs compared to 25 assists. Those are anything but stellar numbers for the so called best PG in the league.

  5. #4. If one thing’s been obvious this post season, it’s that Chris Paul is still the league’s best point guard. That takes nothing away from Rose who is still an amazing talent. But Paul’s re-inserted his name at the top of the PG pyramid.

  6. Regardless of what happens in the playoffs, I believe Paul and Williams are better PGs than Rose when healthy. I just wonder if Paul still has it in him physically to play at this level for 82 games.

    Also – and this isn’t a knock on Rose – I seriously question a team’s chances of going all the way when they depend on their PG to be a big-time scorer and make all the plays. The offensive burden he’s carrying is ridiculous on a 62-win team.

  7. Trevor Ariza did a decent defensive job on Kobe with his length and athleticism. But when you look up at the box scores, Kobe’s got 30-points plus the win. It must be a discouraging thought for an opponent when you think you did your job only to realize you were YouTubed and your team lost the game.

  8. If Rondo works on his jump shot, and gets it to a respectable level, he immediately becomes the best PG in the league…

    Good defender, good rebounder, and an excellent distributor. And, oh yeah, he has that ring on his finger…

    And, it is certainly possible to see his shooting get better as he gets more and more time in the league.

    Scary.

  9. The Dude Abides April 23, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    To further expand on the Laker record in close-out games in the Gasol era, they are 11-1 (4-0 at home, including two Game Sevens). They have also won seven consecutive close-out games, with two of those at home and five on the road. This team definitely has a killer instinct once it’s locked in.

  10. On a different note, saw this short article on TrueHoop. It’s about the lost art of trash-talking. Hilarious.

    - Legend has it Gary Payton, who vets say talked an endless stream of trash, once told Jordan that he drove a better car than MJ. ‘The cars I got are just like yours,’ Jordan replied. ‘Except mine were free.’” Also, love this: “The Lakers aren’t as good at it, but the defending champs have an edge over most other teams because Kobe can talk with the best of them while he lights you up and Ron Artest is just weird. One reason he’s a great defender is he’ll get way too close and whisper in your ear.”

  11. I would also say that the team has taken on Kobe’s ethic of playing through injuries. It seems that the Bynum injury last night was not unlike the one he sustained a couple of weeks ago. He got up and played through. LO has that knee issue that has his wife pitter pattering on Twitter about (He seemed to get more comfortable with his mobility as the game progressed). Fish has always been a warrior. I think it takes this mentality to win any championship, as everybody is banged up. To consistently play up to your level while injured, and in pressure situations, year after year, deep into the playoffs, that is a mentality that comes directly from example.

  12. 10, rofl that’s hilarious. I can just imagine Artest going up to Paul Pierce and whispering unimaginable things into his ears.

  13. holy shitsnacks, are you guys watching Blazers-Mavs?!

  14. Wow how big was Kobe’s shot against Sacramento for the Dallas Mavericks?

  15. Just finished the Port/Dal game– absolutely unbelievable, kind of like 2000 LA-POR Game 7 in reverse. Given what that team has been through, from wholesaling the JailBlazers to all the injuries, I must say I am happy for Portland in general and BRoy in particular.

    That was an awesome basketball game. Can Dallas recover from being up 23 late and losing?

  16. Never overestimate the heart of a choker?

  17. Artest probably sings to Pierce all the time about not undoing his shorts again.

    Or about doing it again.

  18. Is this 2009? What was up with Brandon Roy tonight? He is one of my favourite players though so it was nice to see a vintage crunch-time performance from him.

    Impressive choke job by Dallas by the way. Hard to complain about lack of respect when you keep reinforcing the old stereotypes about you.

  19. One thing or one word I had to mention about yesterday’s game was “Teamwork” wow I loved it!!
    and Man! what a playoffs its turning out to be!, I knew this year would be special, It’ll just make it that much more special once we make it back. One game at a time though, and i’m not sure what are all your thoughts on our team, but we look way deeper this year then last, more importantly Healthier.
    -Lets go Lakers! one game at a time 14 left!

  20. Cayucos Surfer April 23, 2011 at 6:15 pm

    16.

    ..Or lack thereof?

  21. That was a heck of a win by Memphis. Anyone doubting the Spurs in that series? I had them in six originally. I’m still going with them. It may take seven games instead. And to make matters worse, they will probably have a rested OKC waiting on them once they finally get Memphis off their backs.

    I don’t envy them at all.

  22. “Entering this postseason, there have been 175 instances in which a best-of-seven series was tied at one after two games. When the home team won Game Three, it went on to win the series 70.1 percent of the time. When the home team lost Game Three, it went on to win the series only 16.7 percent of the time.”

    Now, I’ve been working with paint for the last few days, but I am struggling to understand what happens the other 13.2 percent of the time.

  23. #22: The percentages are not supposed to add up to 100.

    When the home team wins game 3, it wins the series 70% of the time and loses 30% of the time.

    When the home team loses game 3, it wins the series 17% of the time and loses 83% of the time.

  24. penston, i got it wrong the first time too so don’t feel bad ;)

    what vincent said.

    it was basically written to say that it was a must-win since the difference between 70% and 17% is rather large.

  25. I sure am glad that the Lakers did not have to begin the 1st round against Memphis or Portland, since they are having enough issues with NOLA, nothing that can not be overcome of course. Randolph and Gasol certainly would have been problems for the Lakers with Memphis, and Portland has loads of good players.

  26. @Darius

    One of the greatest debates in elementary school was who would win out of NWA’s Road Warriors and WWF’s Demolition. In the sixth grade I thought Ax and Smash were the two craziest guys on planet Earth. I always argued for them. My buddy always argued for the Road Warriors. Thanks for the flashback. Those were great times.

  27. “In these games – as close to must win as there are – Kobe’s teams have won at a .875 clip. Also understand, these specific games have proven quite important over the years”.. If this is not a proof of being clutch then I do not know what Abbot is talking about. In games were every shot, drible & pass is that important Kobe Bryant finds a way how to gut out a win.

  28. Wow. This far in, these are some of the best playoff (collectively) series in quite some time. Every game is just so damn exciting. J.R. Smith’s flurry at the end, Zach Randolph’s beastly night capped off with that 3, Roy and the Blazers, and even the Bulls making an unbelievable run before coming up short.

    There was some incredibly fun-to-watch hoops that started last weekend, and it hasn’t stopped yet.

  29. Watching that Blazers comeback was one of those moments that reminded me how really great sports can be sometimes. B Roy was incredible.

  30. @8: I think that won’t matter too much. By the time Rondo finally develops a decent mid-range jumper all the teammates that matter on the Celtics will have moved on or retired and the team itself will fade to the background, where they belong.

    Bye.

  31. Darius,
    I’m sorry. I think you’re overreacting to a playoffs spring time tradition… The complete destruction of Derek Fisher. Every PG Derek goes against has a coming out party this time of year. Rondo three years ago in the Finals, Aaron Brooks two years ago, Russell Westrbook last year, and now the rebirth of Chris Paul. What’s more likely? Chris Paul got healthy all of the sudden or he is destroying the worst defensive PG in the NBA? Paul again was 8 for 10 in the first half because Phil Jackson decided he wanted Kobe more productive on the offensive end of the floor. In the second half Kobe switched back onto him and Paul was shutdown. I’m just not convinced CP3 is even in the top 3 PGs anymore. Rose, Westbrook, and Daron Williams seem to be better players at this point in Paul’s career sadly.

  32. …since Westbrook, Paul, Rondo, et al ONLY get stellar numbers against D-Fish and would garner mediocre stats w/o Laker games to pad their numbers. Chyeah.

  33. Ken,
    You’re of course smarter than that. Life is about comparison. The Lakers give up the worst PER to opposing PGs in the NBA. In fact they give up the third highest PER difference from league average of any position at the PG spot. This stat is even more appalling when you take into consideration the Lakers have one of the top overall defenses in the league. There is a difference between allowing CP3 to get 34 and 14 against Fisher and 19 and 9 the next game against Kobe. Life mostly isn’t black and white. For instance… Nobody can stop Kobe… But would there be a difference in his play if I guarded him compared to Trevor Ariza?

  34. Nice 5 min edit of the POR comeback:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2YneamUqN1w

    I just hope – for Dirk’s sake – that this game doesn’t swing the momentum of the series completely and break the Mavs’ spirit. They gave away a huge chance to basically clinch the series, the same chance the Lakers have tonight. Hopefully our guys recognize the benefits (momentum, good chance for a longer rest) that they can gain tonight for the second round and play accordingly.