After losing to the Heat on Tuesday, the Lakers are 1-2 on their current road trip. Facing the Magic today, on the 2nd night of a back to back, is not an ideal way to try and reach .500 on the trip (and snag their 2nd win of the season), but it is the opportunity in front of them.

The Magic will not be a pushover. Like the Lakers, they have a collection of young talent and hired a disciplinarian coach to propel them forward in their rebuild, only they are farther ahead in the process. Last season yielded two lottery picks in Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton. Prior to netting those two, the Magic drafted Tobias Harris and Victor Oladipo plus snagged Nikola Vucevic in the deal which netted the Lakers Dwight Howard (Vucevic was in Philly and went to Orlando when the 76ers nabbed, gasp, Andrew Bynum). Add to them this year’s lottery pick Mario Henzoja and, well, this team is loaded with young players who can all play.

Adding Skiles is seen as the final piece to help the young players grown and realize some of their enormous potential. Skiles has a history of turning teams around quickly, getting through to them as a motivator and getting them to play well defensively. While Skiles was a showman and assist machine as a player, he is a hard-nosed coach who maxes out his players by inspiring them to play hard every night. The results so far are a 3-5 record and a competitive team who only has a -.6 point differential on the season.

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Tuesday night’s loss the Heat was pretty much expected. On the road + playing a good team + the Lakers being not a good team right now = a loss. I think we can all live with that result. Frustratingly, what has also become somewhat expected but is harder to live with is that D’Angelo Russell couldn’t find his way into the game even though the team trailed by as many as 18 points in the period and ended up losing by 13. As a key young player who, as stated by the head coach needs minutes on the floor to develop, not playing in this particular game seems like a wasted opportunity.

Forget, though, all of that for a moment. Yes, Russell needs to play for development reasons but there are some numbers which say he probably should be playing in the 4th quarter based on merit. Namely, that Russell does his best work in the 2nd half of games, showing especially strong play in the 3rd quarter. The numbers are below:

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The Lakers lost again. This, in and of itself, is not news. It is especially not news when they are on the road and playing a good team, as they did on Tuesday night, against the Heat in Miami. So, with the simplest of explanations, chalk this up to one team losing to a better team under circumstances in which that outcome was going to be pretty likely.

The bigger story, though, wasn’t just the team losing, but the side stories within the loss. Namely, that despite the Lakers finding themselves down big late, D’Angelo Russell could not get any 4th quarter minutes. After the game, Byron Scott had this to say about that development:

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This is less a preview about the Heat and more a comment on approach to any given game moving forward. So, if you are interested in match up specific content, sorry to let you down today. Our morning links from today give some nice background Kobe and Wade and, like our previous game previews you can hash out the players of import simply by examining the rosters from both teams.

I am taking this approach for the simple reason that at some point the Lakers are going to need to decide what they want most out of this year. As we noted in our season preview and have touched on several times since, the Lakers headed into this season with contrasting goals of winning as many games as possible while also developing the young players. The balancing act which would come from trying to achieve both goals would be difficult and likely unsuccessful.

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It is pretty easy to be down on the Lakers right now. They possess a 1-5 record. They are in the bottom 10 in the league in both offensive and defensive efficiency. They have lost two very winnable games (opening night vs. the T’Wolves, Sunday against the Knicks) while facing a relatively soft schedule (for example, one of their losses was to the Kings who have only that single win in eight games).

I think some of the major frustrations aren’t necessarily with the losses (though winning more would be nice), but the process in which the losses are occurring. If the Lakers are going to lose anyway, many would like to see D’Angelo Russell in those late game situations where learning can occur. There are questions about the rotations being put together, the schemes the team is using on both sides of the ball, and whether it all combines to put players in the best positions to be successful.

And while it is important to always know that there are things we do not have information on (how practices are going, what’s being discussed in film sessions, specific directions doled out to players), what we see in the games does cause frustrations to mount.

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The Lakers lost again on Sunday, this time to the Knicks, their 5th defeat in six games. The game was close throughout and the Lakers, down the stretch, fell into the trap of looking for specific types of plays — namely Kobe wing isolations – which bogged down their ball movement and, ultimately, did not produce good shots.

It wasn’t even that Kobe got a lot of shots down the stretch, but rather that process of trying to even get him these shots led to the failures. If the Lakers had simply relied on different play types and, in the process, initiated their offense in a different manner they might have gotten the needed baskets (or trips to the foul line) to stop the bleeding.

Instead, they scored exactly one basket between the 7:18 mark and the :05 mark of the 4th quarter. Those two points — on a Roy Hibbert offensive rebound and putback — were only bolstered by four free throws to in the last 7-plus minutes. In case you were wondering, that’s very bad.

I would like to get back to the point above about seeking out different options offensively, however. Because, for the season, the Lakers have been making similar errors in judgement and it has been hampering their offensive output.

What do I mean? I am glad you asked!

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The Lakers came to New York winless, but look to leave the state with their first two wins of the year. After beating the Nets in Brooklyn on Friday night, they get the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Sunday afternoon. The start time leaves something to be desired — we’ll see how many players have that dragging look that comes from a Saturday night out on the town.

Friday’s game against the Nets offered the first look at what a real road game looks like in what could be Kobe’s last season. At Yahoo!, Adrian Wojnarowski captured the moment and atmosphere very well:

Over and over, they chanted Bryant’s name at the Barclays Center. He let the love wash over him, waving to everyone on his way out, disappearing into the tunnel with his hands raised to the rafters. The Lakers won’t win a lot of road games this year, and that kind of response won’t always feel appropriate. It did on Friday, though. Truth be told, it felt perfect.

“The crowds, the chanting, people wanting to see me play – I’m extremely, extremely appreciative of that,” Bryant told Yahoo Sports. “I understand what that means. Listen, my personality isn’t the rocking chair kind of thing, but the chanting of my name means enough to me.”

Bryant is sure to get another taste of that this afternoon. There are few, if any, opposing arenas which Kobe is more beloved than Madison Square Garden. The Knicks crowd has loved Kobe over the years and he has loved them right back, giving them some great moments and memories. He has always said he loves to play there and it has shown in his efforts. Today, with the understanding it could be the last time he plays there, I expect there to be much of the same appreciation he was shown in Brooklyn two days ago.

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There has been a lot of handwringing over the Lakers’ offense. I know, I have been doing it myself. And while I stand by my criticisms of how the team’s worst tendencies have been too present to start the season, we are beginning to see a slight shift in how the team attacks.

Since the Nuggets game, the Lakers have been running more quick hitting actions, getting into their sets faster, and using more integrated pick and rolls throughout any given set. This has all led to a more fluid looking attack. Granted, the team has played two very poor defenses, but I’ll take any progress I can get.

But even when the team has been running some of the actions they have been running all season, the execution and attention to detail has been better than what we saw in the preseason or the team’s first few games. An example of this was a Triangle action from the Brooklyn game on Friday night:

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