Now is the time to not only set a precedent for the season’s overall tone, but it’s also the time to start considering the weight of home court advantage in the playoffs.
And beyond that, it’s never too soon to starting thinking ahead to what we all hope is not the abstract: the Finals. During no series is home court advantage more advantageous than during that anticipated clash of east versus west.
Last season, the Lakers were down 3-2 in the Finals against the Celtics, heading back to Los Angeles, to Staples Center, to their fans. Playing before a roaring, supportive crowd, in an arena familiar and comfortable, they were able to win two games in a row to capture the title.
Two years prior, they faced the same 3-2 finals deficit against the Celtics. But that time, they were heading into the hostile Boston Garden, a building filled with some of the most intense Laker-haters in the country.
We all know how that turned out.
While games played in October, November and December do not determine the playoff success of any team, there comes absolutely no harm from taking early games seriously and competing with intensity every night. Why not set a solid foundation at the beginning, in the event that injuries and fatigue take a toll at some point during the long season? And why not forge a distance between yourself and other teams early on, creating an environment in which all others are forced to play catch-up?
Last season, the Lakers had 23 wins through Christmas, going on to win the championship in June. Here’s hoping for a similar, or even better start: +23 wins before the end of December, eventual home court advantage and the actualization of a three-peat. By building on the strong 13-4 start, the Lakers will increase the chance of that glorious prospect becoming reality.