The Lakers are 3-2 and they have not lost a home game in this young season.
But the problem is that they have not won a road game so far.
Granted, it’s a very small sample size at two games. And one of them happened to go overtime. So this road trip will be a good test for these Lakers. They start their four-game expedition in Florida, where the Orlando Magic await their rematch.
You’re reading this so you likely know that the Lakers defeated the Orlando Magic last Monday, 106-103. You also probably know that the Orlando Magic have turned into a lively defensive team that annoys the hell out of their opponents. They are still third in defensive rating even after their losses against both teams in Los Angeles.
Paolo Banchero is the team’s franchise player. He had gotten off to a curiously slow start before detonating for 30 points in a win against the Utah Jazz. I look for him to be more aggressive against the Lakers. Especially since his two lowest scoring games came against the Lakers (four points in one of their games last season and then 9 points on Monday’s game).
The Magic do have a lot of youthful talent and it was on display in Monday’s contest. Franz Wagner is a hell of a scorer. Cole Anthony spits fire off the bench. Jalen Suggs is plucky on both ends. Wendell Carter. Jr. is a skillful big man. We know Markelle Fultz’s difficult journey in the league and we saw Gary Harris be an assassin from deep (led the Magic with 17 points last Monday).
Orlando destroyed the Lakers in second chance points, 20-4. We know that’s been a huge weakness for the Lakers so it’d be cool if the Lakers big men can get the Magic off the boards.
The Lakers also have to stay attached to the Magic players; this has been another weakness for L.A. They just can’t die off the screens and they can’t give them too much space. These are professional basketball players that are getting better all the time and a little time and space is all they need to get a quality shot off. And the Lakers, sometimes, give more than just a little time and space. These are not people to be left alone as if they’re coming off a break-up; these people are playing an intense game of basketball.
I once read that this team might be too deep for Darvin Ham. Well, this depth is paying off immediately because, once again, the Lakers are plagued with injuries. The latest news, however, is not great. Gabe Vincent will be out for two weeks in addition to Rui Hachimura, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Jalen Hood-Schifino. Taurean Prince is questionable after missing Wednesday’s win over the Clippers.
Both LeBron James and Anthony Davis are having excellent seasons (per usual). At least, they have two days off as the load has gotten heavy for both stars; so much for LeBron’s minutes limit, right? D’Angelo Russell has stepped up his scoring and sometimes, he’s been the reason why the Lakers have stayed in games. Austin Reaves had been in a slump but came on late against the Clippers. If Prince can’t go again, Cam Reddish will be ready. He played an admirable defensive game on Wednesday. And we know that Christian Wood has had a superb start to the season off the bench. They might work in that three-big line-up again since that Magic team is quite large.
This road trip will gauge where the Lakers are in their progress as a team. Yes, it’s early but every game counts even if you don’t think they do. After all, they eeked into the play-in with 43 wins last season. I think this time around, their expectations are just a little bit higher.