A funny thing happened last night. Not funny “ha ha ha”, but funny like I totally saw it coming but still got a bit perturbed by it. In words I have uttered to others multiple times, “that’s your fault” — but this time I was saying it to myself. Last night, against the Heat, the Lakers blew another double digit lead and lost to the Heat. Immediately after that loss, on social media, fans flooded my mentions telling me how terrible the Lakers are. Here, at my site, commenters did the same thing.

This frustrated me. It frustrated me because I think that’s short sighted. It frustrated me because I think the Lakers aren’t as bad as they come off by losing these games. But guess what, that’s my fault. It’s my fault because, let’s face it, I know how some of ya’ll are. Not how all of you are, but some of you. That vocal minority tends to talk loudest when things go poorly and then get silent when things go well. That’s their prerogative and their right. It also frustrates me. But, again, that’s my fault. I know these people exist. I should just let it slide.

What does this have to do with the game against the Magic? Well, not a lot. The Lakers look like a bad team right now. The Magic, as confusing as they are as a construct, are better than them right now. Their record is better and they just beat beat the same Heat team the Lakers blew that lead against. In other words, if the Lakers’ lose tonight I will not be surprised. After all, they will again be without Julius Randle who traveled back to Los Angeles to be with his fiance for the birth of their child. They will also be without Larry Nance. Tarik Black is doubtful to play. This is three-fourths of the team’s front court rotation and they are facing a Magic team whose strength is their front court.

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The Lakers are 11-20 and 1-4 on their current 7 game road trip. In the 1st half the Hornets game it looked as though the team had started to recapture some of their early season form only to give it all back like a gambler at a hot craps table who decided he needed to go test roulette next instead of enjoying his comped steak dinner. With that loss the chance of having an over .500 roadie evaporated.

The trip can still be salvaged, though. They close with two games in Florida, facing the 9-20 Heat and the 13-17 Magic. Neither game is a gimme, not on the road and not against teams who have some good talent. But, still, the Lakers have been close to getting back on track for a while now, falling short mostly through a stretch of mistake ridden basketball in nearly every game that proves too costly to overcome.

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I’d be lying if I said I felt no disappointment or frustration after Tuesday’s loss to the Hornets. After controlling the game for the 1st half, the Lakers struggled mightily during the 3rd quarter to let the Hornets back in. The 4th quarter became a test of execution and timely plays, with Charlotte doing a bit more of the former and on the receiving end of a few more of the latter. A loss ensued and, as per the usual, when a loss like that occurs the torches were lit and the pitchforks were sharpened.

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Pete and I are back with our 2nd episode of the Laker Film Room Podcast. In this episode, we talk all things Julius Rande, the new collective bargaining agreement, and take a few mailbag questions.

Click through below to listen to the pod.

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The Lakers are coming of their first days of consecutive rest in over a month. After playing in Cleveland on Saturday, they are in Charlotte to play the Hornets today, Tuesday, the 5th game of a 7 game road trip which will have them on the road for two weeks. So, even with the extra day off, there really is not any rest for the weary in the NBA — something the Lakers are well aware of, I might add.

This goes for the travel and for who they will face on the floor. To be clear, the Hornets are not looked at as a “power” by any means. They are only 2 games over .500 at 15-13 on the year. However, that mark is good for 4th in the East and they easily could be 3rd if they hadn’t lost 4 in a row before getting a win against the Hawks on Saturday. So, yeah, the Hornets are good. They have good depth, an excellent coach, and, maybe most important, know who they are and how they want to beat you.

Charlotte plays a disciplined game on both sides of the ball and makes opponents beat them rather than making the kinds of mistakes where the Hornets beat themselves.

Consider the Hornets rank 6th in defensive efficiency, 1st in defensive rebound rate, 28th in offensive rebound rate, and 3rd in turnover percentage on offense. This team makes you score on your first possession against a set defense and then makes you play out full possessions on the other end by rarely giving the ball away. We talk about Memphis as “grit and grind”, but Charlotte has a little bit of that in their blood too.

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I really like Jordan Clarkson. He cares about getting better. He works hard. He plays with a chip on his shoulder. He is self aware enough to see some of the weaknesses in his game and then takes measures to try to eliminate them. Any player who has these traits will endear themselves to me because not all players are like this. A lot of them are the opposite.

Jordan Clarkson also frustrates me at times. He has become increasingly one dimensional as an offensive player. When watching him play live, especially recently, I’ve wondered if he realized he had teammates on the floor. During the recent game against the 76ers, his general approach led me to actually tweet this:

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The Lakers were on a back-to-back and they drew the reigning, defending NBA champions at the tail end. As expected, the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Lakers, 119-108.

But the final score doesn’t tell the story of the whole game. In fact, this was one of the better performances they’ve had this season, even though they didn’t have starting point guard D’Angelo Russell (who had a sore knee and was rested by the team).

The Lakers got off to a great start as they led the Cavs, 31-23, in the first quarter. But the Cavs came roaring back as they scored 15 unanswered points. Kyrie Irving did his thing as he was weaving, scoring, and getting his teammates involved. But the Lakers didn’t let the Cavs break free. Julius Randle and Nick Young did everything they could to keep up with the champs. Jordan Clarkson, who finally had a great offensive game, beat the halftime buzzer with a lay-up and cut the deficit to three.

The three-point barrage continued from both teams. Nick Young was hot all game; he would end with 32 points and 8 shots from behind the arc. Kevin Love and J.R. Smith would do the damage for the Cavs from the outside. Later on, Clarkson and Luol Deng would join in on the act. It was your good old-fashioned shootout. We know how potent the Cavs offense was but we saw some excellent ball movement from the Lakers. L.A. was able to stay with Cleveland.

Until the end. Cleveland was hanging on to a three-point lead, 108-105, before the Lakers finally went cold. The champs took advantage and LeBron James made a three to give themselves a cushion with 2:30 left. The Lakers wouldn’t make a field goal for more than three minutes. Cleveland ended the game with an 11-3 run. Both teams combined for 31 three-pointers.

I don’t necessarily think this was a moral victory but I do think there was some growth today for this team. They’ve lost nine out of ten, sure, but the Lakers played an all-around good game in Cleveland. They were just overwhelmed and got beat by a better team. The Cavaliers are champions, after all. LeBron didn’t get off to a great start but he still finished with 26-7-9. Kyrie distributed early then got himself going offensively; he had 21 points, 6 rebounds, and 12 assists. Kevin Love, who seems to finally have it figured out in Cleveland, went for 27 points and 17 boards.

But the ball movement was crisp for the first time in weeks. They had 12 turnovers, which wasn’t bad. Nick Young, again, had eight three-pointers, which was a career-best. And he didn’t do so bad defensively, either. Julius Randle got off to a good start and ended with 16 points. Again, Clarkson had a good offensive game and scored 20 points (he didn’t pound the ball as much like dribbling was going out of style). We’re encouraged by Luol Deng. He scored 15 points and grabbed 8 rebounds. Deng made some big shots to keep the team in it. And Brandon Ingram flirted with a triple-double (9 points, 10 rebounds, 9 assists). He showed some leadership out there in the point guard position; you could see him directing traffic out there. It was good to see. Larry Nance, Jr. only had two points and five boards but playing in front of your dad must feel pretty awesome. Timofey Mozgov didn’t play a great game but he did receive his championship ring (he was mobbed by his former Cavs teammates before the game started).

If they keep playing like this in the future, they should win more often than not. When they get more experience playing together, cut the little mistakes, tighten up defensively, and consistently play well in four quarters, then the Lakers will be a team to watch. Hopefully, they do most of the same play in their next game, which is in Charlotte on Tuesday.

The Lakers will be fine if they continue to make progress like this. With the expectations tapered a bit, the wins would certainly be good but the playoffs, at this point, would be gravy.

The Lakers may have been able to end their 8 game losing streak with a win a in Philly over the 76ers, but the NBA schedule makers have a way of trying to humble you quickly. You’ll recall the 4 game in 5 night roadie the Lakers struggled on just a little while back, well now the team heads into Cleveland for it’s 3rd game in 4 nights and their 4th in 6 nights — all of which have been on the road.

Even if it weren’t a back to back, though, playing the Cavs would be a daunting challenge. The Cavs are the best team in the East and, if it weren’t for the Warriors looking amazing after adding Kevin Durant, the defending champion Cavs would likely be viewed as the best team in the league. Their starting lineup has one of the best net ratings in the league (+9.4 in 281 minutes) and any time LeBron, Love, and Kyrie share the floor they are outscoring teams by 11.4 points per 100 possessions.

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