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The Lakers come home off their 4 game road trip with only a single win, but got that W on the 2nd night of a back to back against a game Hawks team in the final game of their trip. With that, they should be feeling pretty good about themselves, given that they were finally able to get over the hump they could not hurdle in previous games which saw second half surges turn into down the stretch faltering.

It’s too early to say if that was a breakthrough or just another learning moment which may not stick as the season progresses. After all, the Lakers showed similar winning resolve on opening night against the Rockets only to fall back against the Jazz, Thunder, and Pacers. That said, it felt good to see the team pull one out and, as Luke Walton said, it was a nice reward for the hard work the team has been putting in and gives them some incentive to keep up those efforts moving forward.

This is a great point and should not be overlooked. As we have discussed in the past, it is one thing to keep players engaged and buying into their respective roles when the team is winning like what occurred under Luke Walton in Golden State during his interim stint. It’s quite another, though, to continue to get that same level of commitment when the losses start to pile up. I’m not saying that would have happened if the team had fallen to 1-4, but I am saying it’s good to be 2-3 instead.

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Since starting the season with a feel good win over Houston, the Lakers are now 1-3. The road has not been kind to the team, with each L offering a certain hopeful quality only to still end up being an L. As I wrote before the Pacers’ game, there is some solace to be taken from moral victories, but I also think frustration starts to set in when a team fights so hard to keep games close only to lose out in the end the way this team has been.

Tuesday’s loss was particularly rough when you consider the irony in the Lakers losing in the exact way they had beaten so many teams over the years. As commenter mindcrime so succinctly put it, “Sometimes the other team’s best player is better than anything you have. George just made his shots, period. I’m sure fans of other teams similarly lamented times when Kobe did the same thing to them.”

With George cooking down the stretch, maybe the Lakers could have made some defensive substitutions, but considering the Pacers basically just started running 1-3 P&Rs to get George isolated against D’Angelo Russell, I’m not sure if bringing in Deng or Ingram for more size would have really helped. Luke Walton chose to go with three guards and their offensive abilities instead. It didn’t work out, but I’m not sure if second guessing really gets us anywhere — at least not yet. There will be a time to do a deep dive into lineup examination, but after 4 games I think we’re a bit early for that. It is coming, though.

Moving onto tonight, the Lakers close out their 4 game roadie against the remade Hawks. Much like the Pacers, the Hawks have changed up their roster in an attempt to freshen up their look and, hopefully, compete deeper into the post-season. This team is only a couple of years removed from making a run at the league’s best record and having 4 all-stars named to the mid-season exhibition, but those teams never got over the hump.

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After an opening night win over the Rockets, the Lakers have dropped two straight road games against the Jazz and the Thunder. Both the losses showed off the Lakers’ fighting spirit which, if you listen to the players, is meaningful and can be built on. Maybe fans, too, should get into savoring some moral victories since, despite Metta World Peace’s playoff proclamations, the Lakers are not likely to post more than 30 or so actual victories.

But that’s a topic for another day. Today, the team will be back on the court and regardless of what the oddsmakers think, the team will be trying to get that W. The team they will try to get it against is a renewed Pacers’ team which has retooled their roster and hired Nate McMillan to replace the dispatched Frank Vogel.

That coaching change was based on the premise that team president Larry Bird wanted the team to play faster and be more explosive on offense. Through three games, I would say the Pacers are trending in that direction. They are playing at the 11th fastest pace and have the 15th best offensive efficiency per the Problem is, the Pacers are also ranked 29th in defensive efficiency and have only won one of their three games.

In other words, they are a work in progress.

They do have some talent, though. Paul George remains one of the better 2-way players in the league. He’s flanked on the wing by Monta Ellis and the acquired by trade Jeff Teague. Up front they have the emerging 2nd year player Myles Turner and the acquired by trade Thad Young. This, then, projects to be a talented starting 5 who should be able to score. But with only George and Turner projecting to be plus defenders (George is already fantastic, Turner is young and learning), you can see why the aforementioned rankings are what they are.

For the Lakers, then, this has the potential to be a winnable game. Indy has the best player and more experience overall, but the Lakers look to be the deeper team and, even if their offense has not shown it yet (outside of the Rockets game), just as explosive offensively. The question will be whether their team defense is up to the task of guarding the perimeter and whether they can finally start to turn some of these open jumpshots into made baskets.

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The Lakers are 1-1 after losing a hard fought game against the Jazz which saw the team battle back and keep it close, only to struggle in the closing minutes. It was a winnable game and head coach Luke Walton noted after the contest this was one he wished his team would have gotten:

I like Walton’s framing here. He’s not down on his players for not finding a way, but he’s not absolving them from coming up short either. I also like the emphasis placed on it being a road game — after all, the Lakers’ opening win against the Rockets showed how his team could find a way to close out a game at the end. These two points are related, of course. His team just did what he wanted a game prior, reminding them of that isn’t the worst thing.

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The Lakers are back at it Friday night, taking on the Jazz in Utah. This is the first of a 4 game road trip, all of which are against playoff quality teams. So even though the Lakers are coming off a good win over a quality Rockets’ team which inspired quite a few positive observations, these upcoming games offer quite a different challenge.

Regarding tonight, Utah is a game opponent who is well coached on both ends of the floor. To show you a bit of what they like to do schematically, I turn you over the very informative video below from friend of the site @LakerFilmRoom:

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Hard to believe the regular season is already here. Way back in April, Kobe said goodbye with a 60 point farewell and since then we’ve seen the Lakers fire Byron Scott, hire Luke Walton, draft Brandon Ingram and Ivica Zubac, sign (and trade for) veterans in free agency, play summer league, go through training camp, and play 8 preseason games. Through it all fans have been waiting to get to this point where the games actually matter.

Now they will.

We already covered our big picture thoughts for the season, so I won’t rehash those now. There is a general excitement to watch this team play and, while there is not a lot of hope for a huge bounce back in terms of wins, I think expecting some good progress throughout the campaign is more than fair.

That, of course, begins tonight with a match up against the Rockets. Rather than get into what they present as a team, do yourself a favor and watch this breakdown from Pete Zayas of @LakerFilmRoom who does a great job of showing fans what Houston likes to do on both sides of the floor:

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The Lakers’ preseason ends tonight with a match up against the Suns. While the team still has a couple of roster cuts to make — and maybe an assistant coach to hire? — and then sort out whether or not to treat this game like a real dress rehearsal, I think there is really only one goal for tonight: No one get hurt.

The regular season starts next Wednesday. The Lakers have plenty of work to do before then and pretty much all the goals should be to get to that date healthy with several practices and teaching sessions leading up to that point to help fine tune this team. So while tonight’s game is happening, I wouldn’t say it “matters”.

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The Lakers have not played since Saturday and, from their last few games, they needed the break in action. After winning two of their first 3 preseason games, they’d lost their last three. And while the final score for two of those contests were close, the circumstances of the game and how the team actually looked tell a different story.

Some of the gains the team had made on both sides of the ball saw regression — especially offensively. Too much standing around, not enough ball or player movement. Some of this was lineup experimentation, some of it was quality of opponent (Portland and Golden State showed much better quality defense than the Nuggets). But a lot of it was simply the team not doing what they had done in previous games, and with less urgency.

The time off, then, hopefully did them some good. As with any team featuring young players while trying to integrate new faces expected to be key contributors, the Lakers need time to install sets and schemes and then drill them in practices. They need to scrimmage to simulate game situations to test them, then drill them some more when players make mistakes. In the last week and a half, they have not had this luxury as they’ve basically played every other day (or so).

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