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Real test for Lakers starts Wednesday — keep it up on the road

Jan 28, 2013, 6:21 PM EDT

Los Angeles Lakers players huddle after a breakdown in defense playing against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the first half of their NBA basketball game in Los Angeles Reuters

For two games, the Lakers have had success going away from Mike D’Antoni’s system.

They have slowed the pace down (93 possessions against the Thunder, 90 against the Jazz, both below their 97 a game average). Kobe Bryant is running the point, drawing the double team and making the pass (and you can bet when the doubles slow a little he will start shooting again). He’s having a lot of success doing that from the right mid-post, with a screen coming for him. With Kobe at the facilitator the ball doesn’t stick, it moves. When it moves you see Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard cut off the ball to open spaces and the rim. That has led to a high shooting percentage because of the good looks (54.5 percent shooting as a team for two games, with Kobe shooting better than 68 percent).

The bigger change is the Lakers have defended a lot better (they were at their season average against the Thunder, but as that is the best offense in the NBA keeping them in any kind of check is an accomplishment).

The changes, the win over the Thunder has given Lakers fans hope.

But this week the real tests start.

Tuesday night the Lakers get an improving Hornets team. Then they head out on the road for seven games — the Grammy road trip when Taylor Swift and Frank Ocean kick the Lakers (and Clippers) out of the building for a couple weeks.

On paper the road trip isn’t that brutal, only the Nets and Heat are over .500. But road trips are never that simple. The Pistons have been playing much better of late, the Celtics defend and no rivalry game is ever easy, plus other teams will be up for it.

Teams are going to start adjusting to what the Lakers are doing and the Lakers are going to have to go to their counters while on this trip — the Thunder came with hard doubles at Kobe, which had worked in the last meeting but did not this time around. Teams will watch that tape and learn. Teams are going to maybe not double at all, make Kobe the scorer and see if they can beat you with him shooting 30-plus times. The Lakers are going to have to stay true to what is working and not start having Kobe just looking to shoot or Steve Nash deciding to run.

Give Mike D’Antoni credit — a lot of people, myself included, have watched the Lakers up to now and question how much he was really willing to adjust to win with this roster. Finally that change is becoming the kind of radical change the Lakers need.

But two games is not real change. It’s a step, but it’s not real change.

And the Lakers are going to get tested between now and the All-Star Break. By then we’ll know if the change is for real, and if their playoff dreams still are.

  1. greenejoemean - Jan 28, 2013 at 6:45 PM

    it all depends on kobe. does he get bored with the rondo stat line, or does he want the durant & melo numbers.

  2. spthegr8 - Jan 28, 2013 at 6:56 PM

    We have been BAD on the road, REAL BAD!!!! Haven’t been that much better @ home. But this stretch we have coming up here is gonna define our season. I use too talk S**T @ times like this in the past and make a perdiction on how we would do. Know I am just taking it game by game. It’s still LAKESHOW..ALL DAY!!!!!!!

  3. spthegr8 - Jan 28, 2013 at 6:57 PM

    *Now I am* typo.

  4. fruitcovejag - Jan 28, 2013 at 6:58 PM

    Can’t believe coach Ty Corbin didn’t foul Howard when LA got hot in the 4th against the Jazz. JV coach? LA wouldn’t have been able to hit all those shots if Dwight was on the FT line! Slow them down, swing the momentum, etc. Youve got all of those bigs. I think Dwight finished 1-3 that night!?! Newsflash Ty: If you want to beat them, slow them down by putting Dwight on the line.

  5. eventhorizon04 - Jan 28, 2013 at 7:53 PM

    “On paper the road trip isn’t that brutal, only the Nets and Heat are over .500. But road trips are never that simple. The Pistons have been playing much better of late, the Celtics defend and no rivalry game is ever easy, plus other teams will be up for it.”

    True – it’s any given night in the NBA. Ask the Wizards, who have beaten the reigning Western Conference Champions (OKC Thunder) AND the reigning Eastern Conference + NBA Champions (Miami Heat).

    Still – the Lakers HAVE to play like a desperate team because they are. If they can beat the Jazz (a good team) and OKC Thunder (a great team), it’s completely reasonable for them to have the mindset that every game against a sub-0.500 team from now on is a “must-win.” If they turn their current 2-game win streak into a 8-2 or better stretch, then it’s time to start viewing them as a favorite for the 8th seed.

  6. dannymac17 - Jan 28, 2013 at 8:09 PM

    “The season starts now…”

    Coulda sworn I heard that like 2 months ago.

    • kavika6 - Jan 29, 2013 at 1:11 AM

      “Coulda sworn I heard that like 2 months ago”

      And 4 or 5 times after that.

    • ocgunslinger - Jan 29, 2013 at 8:43 AM

      That was when they were talking the #1 seed. Now it is the 8th seed.

    • tahjay - Jan 29, 2013 at 5:09 PM

      They should try to reach .500 before that statement gets thrown around again.

  7. badintent - Jan 28, 2013 at 8:30 PM

    We all know Kebi will “Keep it up ” on the road trips, trouble is Vanessa will have a GPS in his jock to track him now.Be a good boy Kebi, save a $150 Million , your little head is Not your big head.!!

  8. halohonk - Jan 28, 2013 at 8:59 PM

    What an idiot.

  9. cosanostra71 - Jan 28, 2013 at 10:04 PM

    It does help that they have a somewhat soft schedule, but road trips are never that easy as you said. Let’s see them use that veteran savvy to look like a smart, experienced team instead of a tired old one.

  10. jerdogthompson - Jan 28, 2013 at 11:40 PM

    Still got my 2 tix for the Clipps vs Lakers game in April. I wish for nothing more than for that game to be a “bubble” game for the Lakers and a potential 8th seed. Let me get my 2 large and sit at home watching the large screen to witness a utter dismantling of the Lakers at the hand of my Clippers. Sweet, sweet, sweet.

    • cosanostra71 - Jan 29, 2013 at 1:33 PM

      Again, hope that 30 year wait was worth it.

  11. daddyghi - Jan 29, 2013 at 3:36 AM

    Fakers

  12. rickeydynamite25 - Jan 29, 2013 at 7:10 AM

    ^^^ Hater!

  13. omniusprime - Jan 29, 2013 at 8:53 AM

    Good article Kurt Helin, indeed the real test is the Lakers winning on the road and maintaining their new winning style and attitude. Kobe has done well going with a team concept instead of trying to do it all himself and the team has responded properly. I’d much rather see Kobe be “Magic” Bryant, he’s making the whole team look exciting.

    As long as Nash Trash and Steve Flake don’t muck things up at point guard the Lakers should be fine tonight. Then comes the real test seeing if they can become road warriors instead of road wimps. I’m still looking for that 10 game winning streak before I’ll believe that they believe they can get into the playoffs and win some series.

    We’ll see how long arrogant, ignorant Dumbtoni lets the players play big boy small. I can only hope he understands how close to being fired he is and keeps his small ball garbage to himself.

    Fire Dumbtoni!!! Trade Trash Nash!!! Trade Steve Flake!!! We Want Pau!!!

  14. zacksdad - Jan 29, 2013 at 9:55 AM

    So basically the Lakers hired the coach that was hired because he and his system was the best for this lineup, now are winning not using his system. The speed offense with the old roster and not a great bench is now winning slowing it down.

    Great job Jimmie!! For hiring a coach that does NOT fit the team. For allowing the coach to be stubborn to play his system and put the team is such a big hole. For not hiring Phil because he is smarter than you.

    I love the Lakers, but if Jimmie continues his destruction of this team I may have to become a Clippers fan. But not likely, give Sterling a year or two and he will screw his team up.

  15. abchome - Jan 29, 2013 at 11:23 AM

    Mike D’Antoni does a great job of doing nothing, just stay out of the way and let them play.

  16. tahjay - Jan 29, 2013 at 5:06 PM

    Attn. Jimmy Buss: Pride is one of the seven deadly sins for a reason. Your’s should have been swallowed and Phil would have had this team playing with a top 3 record.

    Mike D’Antoni takes above average rosters and turns them into below average performers. How the hell did this guy even get that job?

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