The Los Angeles Lakers have won four straight games and five of their last six. And while they still sit at 18-21 and on the outside looking in at the postseason picture, there’s reason to be hopeful given the way they’ve been playing.
LeBron James has played in five of the team’s last six, averaging 34.0 points per game in that span. But they’ve also received important contributions from Dennis Schroder, Thomas Bryant, Russell Westbrook and even Kendrick Nunn. This has led to 120.0 points per game in the 5-1 stretch.
For James, the recent success stems from a change in philosophy on the offensive end. “I guess it’s just trying to play basketball right away, especially offensively. We’re moving the ball, sharing the ball. Equal opportunity for everyone and then defensively all helping each other.
“We’ve done a great job of defensive rebounding,” James also pointed out. “We get stops. We do a good job of getting stops, but at times, especially early in the season, we didn’t have a lot of second-chance points and things of that nature, but tonight we had 44 defensive rebounds. That’s pretty amazing.”
James also commended the Lakers’ ability to roll with the punches and keep things afloat despite injuries and other rotation changes. “Just trying. Just trying to hold the fort. Not trying to let the levy break. That’s what it’s all about. Very challenging and very difficult.
“I think we’ve had the most starting lineups in the NBA,” James said. :Watching the game the other night, they said it was our 20th different starting lineup. … So it’s 21 different starting lineups in 39 games. That’s challenging in its own right, but I commend the guys, I commend the coaching staff. … Tonight, K-Nunn, he was the one. Staying ready. Works on his game. Tonight was a byproduct of that. Came out and gave us big-time shooting and big-time playmaking off the bench. That was huge.”
The Lakers certainly look like a more cohesive unit today than they did back in October, which is to be expected considering the significant roster turnover that took place in the offseason. But now the Lakers must prove their recent success is not just a figment of an easy schedule.
Their last six games saw them face just one team above .500 and zero teams in the top six of their conference. Six of their next seven games — and their next four straight — are against teams in the top six.
If L.A. can translate their success against the lower-level teams to competitive performances against teams like the Memphis Grizzlies, Dallas Mavericks and Philadelphia 76ers, then the outlook on the team could be significantly different in just two weeks.
Kendrick Nunn seeing major boost in confidence
Coming off of his best performance of the season — 23 points on 9-of-16 shooting — Kendrick Nunn spoke about the increase in confidence he has now compared to the beginning of the season. He’s also confident he can make a huge impact in the wake of injuries to Austin Reaves and Lonnie Walker IV.
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