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A lot of the things that have hurt the Lakers on the road this season came back to haunt them tonight in their 116-111 loss to the Washington Wizards. The Lakers hoped that they could carry their three-game winning streak into Washington and use that momentum to get their second road victory of the season. Unfortunately that didn’t happen. They are now 7-8 on the season, and will head to Brooklyn tomorrow to take on the Nets on the second night of a back-to-back.

In looking at tonights loss, there are a few things that stood out:

Turnovers

The Lakers never made it a priority of theirs to take care of the ball in this game, turning the ball over 16 times and giving up 28 points off of those giveaways. Not sure if what was more so the Wizards defense, or the Lakers carelessness, but nevertheless it still contributed the most to this loss. While Pau Gasol did have a solid all-around game, he led the Lakers in turnovers with five.

Defense

As soon as the Lakers started getting some credit for their growth on the defensive end, they took a step back and reverted back to the old habits that have held them in losses this season. The Wizards are not a great shooting team, at all, and the Lakers allowed them shoot above 50% from the field. They dominated the glass, got out in transition, and found a way to get easy buckets throughout the entire game.

Multiple Efforts & Energy

The Wizards were the hungrier team tonight. They made the multiple efforts that were necessary to get a victory. As for the Lakers, they seemed relaxed, and that didn’t translate well on the court at all. The Wizards went after most loose balls, and somehow found a way to make the plays that were necessary to get the win, the Lakers didn’t.

Despite all of this, the Lakers still had a chance to win the game in the final minutes of the 4th quarter. Tonight’s loss should be a lesson. They can’t expect to win if they don’t put forth the consistent effort to execute well on both ends of the floor. Tomorrow in Brooklyn they’ll have another chance at it, let’s see how they do.

The Lakers ended their two-game losing streak last Sunday after getting a pretty convincing home victory over the Detroit Pistons, pushing their record to 5-7, which is where we should expect them to be for a team that’s been playing without their best player.

Speaking of their best player, Kobe Bryant has begun practicing this week, and is probably looking to make a return back on the hardwood at the end of this month. This is great news for Lakers fans, as they’ve been patiently waiting for the Black Mamba to come back.

The main takeaway from the Lakers win against the Pistons was the continued production from Jordan Hill and Steve Blake, as they continued to use their energy and athleticism to help this team be more effective on both ends of the floor.

Tonight the Lakers are at home against the Golden State Warriors, as they’ll look to win two games in a row for the first time this season. As we saw on the second night of the 2013-2014 NBA season, the Warriors are a pretty tough matchup for the Lakers, as their athleticism, size, and shooting makes them one of the most dynamic teams in the NBA.

Along with a good start (which hasn’t been a common trend for the Lakers this season), there a few other things that the Lakers are going to have to key on if they expect to beat the Warriors:

Continue To Convert Three-Pointers

The three-point line has been a very essential part of every Laker win so far this season. Currently they shoot roughly around 41% from beyond the arc, ranking in the bottom of the top 10. As we’ve seen though, this team has the knack for getting trigger happy, so it’s going to be important for them to realize that attempting good threes (open or in the corners) is what they have do.

Contain At Least One Of The Splash Brothers

The Lakers are going to need to limit at least one of the elite sharp-shooters that the Warriors have. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are a load to deal with, and the Warriors are hard to beat if both are having a good night. It’s going to be important for the Lakers to stay attached to both of these guys in transition, as they certainly will be looking to capitalize on open three-pointers.

Jordan Hill Gotta Keep It Going

Hill has been nothing short of amazing since entering the starting lineup, posting averages of 16.4 points, and 11.4 rebounds. In that stretch he’s shown flashes off a post-game, and the ability to stretch the floor with his midrange jump shot. His energy and effort on the glass this season has been phenomenal, and it’s going to be needed on a night like this against two all-star caliber big men in Andrew Bogut and David Lee.

Where you can watch: 7:30pm start on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM.

From Ramneet Singh, Lakers Nation: Jordan Hill is making a name for himself in the league and the Los Angeles Lakers are relying on him to contribute on a nightly basis. In the Lakers’ game Sunday night against the Detroit Pistons, Hill scored a career high 24 points and grabbed a career high 17 rebounds. Hill has played well for the Lakers off the bench, but he never really got consistent minutes under Mike D’Antoni. However, the coach eventually saw just how effective the big man was and Hill responded in a big way as starter. After the 114-99 victory over the Pistons, Hill spoke to ESPN about the added confidence to his game.

From J.A. Adande, ESPN LA: With Kobe Bryant back on the practice court — even if his return isn’t exactly imminent — it’s time to start thinking about how this mix of Los Angeles Lakers will fit with him. We know, for instance, that Steve Blake won’t duplicate the 16 assists he had Sunday night against the Pistons; he wont have the ball that much. Jordan Hill can’t count on surpassing the career-high 24 points he had. But there’s no reason Hill can’t top the career-high 17 rebounds Sunday, especially if Kobe’s shot is off when he returns. And there’s no reason Nick Young can’t continue to provide scoring off the bench if he’s getting a good chunk of his minutes while Kobe is out of the game. The sequence is rarely as simple as “superstar returns from major injury, team plays great.” The Chicago Bulls could tell you that. The question is how quickly the Lakers can adapt to him. Because, as they’d say on “The Wire”: Kobe coming, yo.

From Drew Garrison, Silver Screen & Roll: Kobe Bryant is going to play for the Lakers again pretty soon. We don’t know when, we don’t know how he will look as he gets back into game shape, but we know the return is imminent. We always knew that, though, but we’re officially closing in on a return date. He’s practicing with the team for the first time since his Achilles popped and the Lakers are 5-7 without him. Things are about to get complicated in Los Angeles. There are many angles to consider with the return of Kobe Bryant. Even if he’s 25 percent less effective and plays limited minutes early on it’s a given he will give the team a boost. Forget the nuances of defense and offense for a moment and consider that the Lakers are relying on Nick Young, Xavier Henry, Wesley Johnson and Jodie Meeks to handle small forward and shooting guard duties. They’ve done well. As Kanye would say, #NODISRESPECT, but they aren’t Kobe.

From Kurt Helin, Pro Basketball Talk: Kobe Bryant is back practicing with the Lakers (as of this past weekend), creating a lot of buzz around the team. However that doesn’t mean his return to the court is imminent. Kobe said previously it likely would be two to three weeks after he returned to practice that he could play again, but around the Lakers caution and vague timetables remain the order of the day. “He’s a presence, no doubt, and we need that presence, especially at the end of games,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said Sunday. “But we’ve got games to win and there’s going to be a bunch of them before he comes back. “ Still, his return begs another question: What will be the Lakers’ identity when he returns?

 

From Andy Liu, Hickory High: Basketball never stopped, especially after my first year of high school, a time when I was getting my first taste on a competitive team. That’s where I found myself at the gym, everyday, after school, with no stress or a worried thought. I wasn’t thinking about how to get better, shoot more threes, learn how to dribble left-handed; I just played because it was fun. And on a macro-level, maybe it helped me get better as a whole. I took a dribble, like a thousand other times in my life, took two long steps and reached up to cram the ball into the spheric rim that seemed so far away just a year ago. A second later, I lay sprawled on the floor in the kind of pain that wouldn’t allow you to scream or cry even if your body pleaded with all its might. The kind that haunted you whenever you jumped into the lane again, your mind reflexively flashing back to that specific moment, forcing a physical, audible flinch. I had a severely fractured ankle that needed three pins inserted and would never recover that same ability, and the reckless, carefree, worry-less mental state again.

From Corey Hansford, Lakers Nation: The Lakers currently have the best bench in the NBA, ranking first in scoring, rebounds, assists, offensive efficiency, and second in defensive efficiency. Now imagine what could happen if one of the Lakers most talented bench players of all-time joined that group. According to Marc Stein and Ramona Shelbourne of ESPN LA, the Lakers would consider bringing Lamar Odom back if he can prove that all of his personal issues are behind him. The Los Angeles Clippers are also believed to be considering bringing back Odom.

From Dave McMenamin, ESPN LA:  Whenever a new president is elected, a grace period is granted for 100 days before the public and the press weigh in with the first report card on his progress. A presidential term is four years, or 1,460 days, so the initial grading period that ends up setting the tone for the entire term of many commanders in chief actually comes quite quickly, after only about 7 percent of their time in office has been served. With that in mind, judging the Los Angeles Lakers now that they have played 10 games following their 111-99 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday, or 12 percent of their 82-game schedule, is a totally appropriate time to do so. So, what do the Lakers have to say about themselves after their 4-6 start?

From TheGreatMambino, Silver Screen & Roll: No matter how many members of their 57-win squad they lost in the offseason, the Nuggets still haven’t found a way to lose to the Lakers in Denver. The Nuggs posted their fourth straight win against the Lakers (tying the longest streak in franchise history), with a 111-99 rundown in the Mile High City. Denver’s big men did most of the damage, with Kenneth Faried, Timofey Mozgov and JJ Hickson combining for 48 points, 30 rebounds and 5 blocks. Together, they limited Pau Gasolto 11 for 27 shooting, hounded Chris Kaman into a 3 for 9 night and generally set a surprising defensive tone for their squad. The trio also did their part in outrebounding a Lakers team that prides itself on outhustling their opponents, grabbing 7 more boards which no doubt led to a 6 FGA edge. In a surprise development to no one that’s watched the Lakers for the past decade, speedy point guard Ty Lawson added to the mix with a 19/6/7, destroying LA inside-out.

The Lakers ended their two-game losing streak last night after getting a pretty convincing home victory over the New Orleans Pelicans, pushing their record to 4-5, which isn’t bad at all for a team that’s been playing without their best player.

The main takeaway from last nights game was that Mike D’Antoni made another change in the starting lineup. Jordan Hill and Wesley Johnson joined the first unit, and used their energy and athleticism to help this team be more effective on the defensive end. We should expect this to be the lineup for the foreseeable future, as Steve Nash is expected to miss at least two weeks of playing time due to lingering injuries in his body.

Tonight the Lakers will be in Denver, as they’ll look to win their second road game of the season against the Nuggets. As we’ve seen so far, the second night of a back-to-back hasn’t been the most favorable scenario for this Lakers team, and Denver is not an easy place to win on the road at all. According to NBA stats and research, NBA teams are a combined 160-376 (.299) when playing in Denver on the second night of a back-to-back, and since 2003, teams are 27-118 (.186).

Along with a good start (which hasn’t been a common trend for the Lakers this season), there a few other things that the Lakers are going to have to key on if they expect to beat the Nuggets:

Match Kenneth Faried’s Energy

It is no secret that Kenneth Faried has been a nightmare matchup for the Lakers since he came into the league. He’s one of the few players in the NBA that can alter the course of a game with his energy and effort, so it’s going to be key that a guy like Jordan Hill match his intensity, and not let him dominate the offensive glass.

The good news for the Lakers is that Mike D’Antoni has been very high on Hill lately, so we can expect him to be matched up with “The Manimal” a lot over the course of tonights game instead of Pau Gasol or Chris Kaman.

Knock Down Three-Pointers

The three-point line has been a very big part of every Laker win so far this season. Currently they shoot roughly around 41% from beyond the arc, ranking 7th in the NBA. As we’ve seen though, this team has the knack for getting trigger happy, so it’s going to be important for them to realize that attempting good threes (open or in the corners) is what they have do.

Transition Defense

Ty Lawson is always a tough player to guard because of his ability to alter the pace of a game with his speed. Despite the fact that new Nuggets head coach Brian Shaw has been trying to incorporate a a half-court offense, he’s allowed his team to get out in transition in order to get easy baskets.

The Lakers must force the Nuggets to operate in the half-court, as they aren’t one of the most efficient teams in a half-court set(ranking 24th in offensive efficiency).

This Lakers team has been one of the hardest to evaluate in years. Some nights they look amazing, and others not so much. One thing that has been a constant though is that the new pieces have made this team fun to watch when they are rolling.

It’s important that we have no expectations for the outcomes of these games, as on some nights they tend to surprise us. Tonight can definitely be one of those nights.