The Lakers played a strong second half to come back and beat the Kings on Thursday night and then hopped on a plane to New Orleans to continue their road trip. The NBA grind stops for no one and today’s game against the Pelicans will be the Lakers’ sixth game on the road of their first 10 contests. The trip ends with another game tomorrow against the T’Wolves.

That Wolves game is a match up against two up and coming teams and, just as I did with this sentence, it would not surprise me to have some on the Lakers looking forward a bit to Sunday. That, however, would be a mistake for a few reasons. One, the Lakers aren’t good enough to look past any opponent. And, two, while the Pelicans are only 1-8 on the season, they have Anthony Davis who is, well, a monster.

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Luke Walton was not happy after Thursday’s game against the Kings. That might seem odd considering the way his team rallied in the 2nd half, holding the Kings to 36 points over the final two periods to win the game 101-91. He was not protesting the way his team closed, of course, but rather the way they played to dig themselves the hole — at one point they trailed by as many as 19 — to need that type of 2nd half performance in the first place.

This is what Walton is trying to teach and just as lessons can be learned from losses, they also can from wins. Walton did not demean his players or question their manhood, but he did let them know coming out with lackluster energy or attention to detail is not who they want to be as a team. He drilled that lesson after a W and I’m sure he was happy to be able to do so. But, and I’ve harped on this all season, Walton is clearly coaching for something bigger than wins this season (even if wins clearly matter to him — more on that later). He’s coaching to instill his team with the right mindset, the right habits, to have them truly turn the corner and become competitive over the long haul.

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FIGHTING SPIRIT. They just keep doing it.

After a letdown against the Mavericks at home, the Lakers have won four of their last five games as they made an impressive comeback against the Kings in Sacramento, 101-91. The thing is… it really looked bleak early on.

The Lakers looked like they would either watch paint dry or watch leaves fall from a tree. They looked lethargic, fatigued, and a step slower in the first half. The young guns had 12 turnovers. Sactown took advantage; nobody seemed to be able to stop DeMarcus Cousins. He scored 18 of his 28 points in the first half. The Lakers were down as many as 19 points before they had a late surge to close out the half.

D’Angelo Russell, who looked indecisive in the first 24 minutes, caught a bit of fire as he scored eight of his 17 points in the first six minutes of the third. The Lakers did a much better job guarding Boogie as Timofey Mozgov got more physical and they did timely double-teams. In about a nine-minute stretch between the third and the fourth, the Kings only scored two points. Boogie finally did come alive in the fourth quarter but by that time, it was too late. After a deadlock at 82, the Lakers broke away with a 10-0 run that was led by Lou Williams and Nick Young. Sweet Lou scored 13 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter and continues to be that incredible veteran presence. And the resurrection of Nick Young continues. He continues to put a lot of effort on the defensive end. Swaggy P scored the last five points of that aforementioned 10-0 run that pretty much put the game out of reach. He scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half.

I know Luke Walton is still figuring out his rotations as the season goes on. It definitely helped that Larry Nance, Jr. came back for this game after he passed the concussion protocol (who, by the way, did his role as the energy guy off the bench with seven boards). But I like that Luke stayed with the hot guys. The line-up that the Lakers had during the closing stretch was Mozgov, Brandon Ingram (his length bothered the Kings on the boards and on defense), Julius Randle (he still continues to attack; he had 15 and 8), Lou Will, and Nick. I know most coaches would go back to his regular starters but I thought it was a great decision for Walton to stick with the line-up that got them the lead. And it was so encouraging to see all the other guys cheer for the team. Guys, they are so so much fun.

The Lakers did end with 21 turnovers; that is an extremely high number. And I would like it if they could get off to better starts in the game. But I like that the Lakers never stop playing; they have been in every game by the fourth quarter this season. The fight never stops with them and it is so much appreciated by the coaching staff and the fans.

They will face the New Orleans Pelicans next in Louisiana. Those birds just got their first win earlier today so they’re going to be hungry to extend that marvelous one-game winning streak.

The baby Lakers are 5-4. Over .500 after nine games. Quite a pleasant surprise.

After a loss to the Mavericks which was both disappointing yet offered some teachable moments, the Lakers are back in action against the Kings tonight. Sacramento, with new coach Dave Joerger, is 4-5 on the year and looking to get their 3rd straight win while also climbing back to .500 for the season.

As with past seasons, the Kings are difficult to wrap your head around. They have beat teams they should, but also went on a 5 game road trip which saw them lose to the Magic, Heat, and Bucks but beat the Raptors in the final game of the trip. They have the supremely talented DeMarcus Cousins but also a ton of front court depth beside him, but also want to play faster and small which means sliding Rudy Gay up to PF for stretches.

Another wrinkle for Sacto is that Darren Collison returned from his 8 game suspension in Tuesday’s win over the Pelicans, scoring 9 points and dishing 4 assists in his season debut. Getting Collison back finally organizes their lineup and helps to normalize their rotation. With everyone now properly slotted and without having to rely on short term answers, we will finally get a look at what the Kings real potential is.

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I’m going to keep this brief because, well, I just am.

The Lakers went for their 4th straight victory on Tuesday night, but fell short against the Mavs. The game itself was a back and forth affair and one where the Lakers found themselves “in it” until the end. If going down a certain road of analysis, this is a good sign. This team competes and finds a way to either hang around or be in control long enough to make wins possible. In some games they’ve pulled it out, in others they haven’t.

Tuesday was one of those nights and there’s nothing wrong with that, really. This team was projected to win around 27 games this year. The expectation, then, should be that more often than not Tuesday’s result will be the default, not the exception.

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Okay, we all know this is a big day in this country. A lot is riding on the turnout of today’s contest and folks all over the country are stressing out about the results and what they will mean. I get it, I do. The Lakers can move to 5-3 on the season and tonight’s game against the Mavs marks a great opportunity for them to take another step forward as a team.

Wait. Oh, you thought I was talking about Election Day. Yes, yes. That matters too.

On a serious note, we keep things on basketball here and that will continue. That said, I know today I will be distracted from the Lakers as the results trickle in from the Presidential election. I have a feeling I am not alone in feeling this way either. That’s about all I will say on this topic and, per the commenting guidelines, I don’t want this to trickle down into the comment section even though I know it’s on a lot of people’s minds.

With that, the NBA season rolls on and the Lakers are back in action against the Mavs. Or, I should say, the banged up Mavs who are struggling mightily right now. The team is only 1-5 on the year and are only ahead of the winless Pelicans in the standings. Dirk, who is out again tonight with a sore/strained achilles, has only played in 3 games and is likely to miss at least a couple more while on the mend. Deron Williams and Devin Harris are also out tonight, which leaves Rick Carlisle’s crew down three key vets and some needed scoring punch.

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The Lakers Collective

Darius Soriano —  November 7, 2016

The Lakers have traditionally been built on the premise that stars win. The idea is seemingly embedded into the fabric of the organizational ethos. This is a franchise that does not retire your jersey number unless you get elected into the Hall of Fame. They are the franchise who has always had a leading man (and usually more) — from Mikan to Magic, Baylor to Bryant and all the HOF names in-between — anchoring the roster and driving it towards success.

Recent summers (save for 2016) were dedicated to the chase of the next front-man who would lead the organization out of shambles and back into position to compete for championships. Even though there are high hopes for the youngsters grabbed in the lottery, the team always operated under the guise that the next great team might need to be fronted by a star not yet present.

And maybe that is still true. We don’t yet know how good D’Angelo Russell or Brandon Ingram or Julius Randle will be. Early returns tell us they have the potential to be special. And I am a believer in their respective talents. But if every player with potential reached their ceiling, Anthony Randolph might be the league’s reigning MVP on the Warriors, not that Steph Curry character.

While the young players ply their craft in pursuit of living up to their draft status, a funny thing has happened: the Lakers are winning games and are a fun team to watch play. Even if we thought this was possible, to see it actually happening is surprising. What’s even more surprising his how it is happening.

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The Lakers are now above .500 after they beat a very game Phoenix Suns squad, 119-108. They are now 3-0 at Staples Center.

The game wasn’t exactly pretty throughout. The Suns started out of sync as they had 11 turnovers in the first half. But the Lakers were also giving the ball away and ended with 13 of those in the first 24 minutes. Still, the Lakers’ switching and rotating defense gave the Suns fits early. Phoenix only had 15 points in the first quarter and the Lakers carried a double digit lead entering the second half.

In the stretches where they did play good ball, it was a very beautiful sight. Sometimes, you just sit and smile at the Lakers’ passing. You see guys like Lou Williams and Jordan Clarkson finding open guys at the last second. And then you see that pretty forward pass by Julius Randle to Timofey Mozgov for the slam. The ball movement is what makes this team go and coach Luke Walton has done a very good job instilling this type of culture.

What’s great about this Laker team is that everyone can contribute (the Lakers bench outscored the Suns, 47-9). Nick Young started out with a steal, a basket, and an offensive board. He ended with 22 points and had that aforementioned big four-point play. Russell (11-5-6 but 2 for 11 FG) struggled with his shot again but he came up big in the fourth with a three and some good defense. Jordan Clarkson and Lou Williams (veteran presence!) combined for 32 points off the bench. Julius Randle continues to play excellent ball (18 points, 5 rebounds). Timofey Mozgov (14 points, 8 boards) put in 22 quality minutes with some cuts to the basket, good passes, and hustle on the glass. And Brandon Ingram and Tarik Black contributed a few good plays.

Still, the Lakers had a tough time stopping T.J. Warren (22 points) and especially Devin Booker (39 points). Booker is going to be a stud and, really, he helped keep the Suns in the game. They cut the lead to 93-92 before the Lakers scored 9 straight. In that middle of that run was a huge four-point play by Nick Young after D’Angelo Russell ripped the ball off of Warren’s hands. Booker was scoreless for nearly six minutes after Walton put Nick Young and Jordan Clarkson on him.

The play of the game was definitely right after Randle got into it with Tyson Chandler. The Suns were within striking distance at 104-97 with 1:38 left. Nearly the entire building was looking forward to a Randle/Chandler one-on-one battle but once Booker cheated off the wing, Randle whipped the pass to an open Clarkson for the clinching three-pointer. It was a clever move by Randle; veteran move, really. I also want to note that the Lakers outboarded the Suns, 51-40, and I noted the hustle of Mozgov. Seven Lakers had five or more boards in this game. That is some scrappiness by the team.

Meanwhile, all the positive vibes and thoughts to Larry Nance, Jr. He bumped his head on the floor in a scrum in the first half. Nance was diagnosed with a concussion; he never returned to the game and is out for their next game on Tuesday.

These baby Lakers are so fun right now and I’m not sure if anyone expected a three-game winning streak this early in the season. They have the chance to extend that winning streak against Dallas, who just won their first game earlier in the night.

It’s easy to love basketball when you’re having fun AND winning, right?