Luke Walton and the Los Angeles Lakers started their four-game road trip strong, winning their first two games before dropping close contests in their last two. The back-to-back wins on the road was a first this season.
The 2-2 stretch was a better result than many expected the trip to go into it, given that the Lakers had dropped five-straight games before heading out on the road. The team showed heart and cohesion to notch close wins over the Philadelphia 76ers and Charlotte Hornets.
While their two losses to the New York Knicks and the Cleveland Cavaliers obviously didn’t go as the Lakers had hoped, the team did show impressive execution and shot-making to force overtime against the Knicks, and hung in for most of the game against the Cavaliers.
The Cavs of course reside as one of the NBA’s best teams, and led by LeBron James they ultimately pulled away down the stretch.
That context gave Walton hope that his team is trending in the right direction despite losing two in a row to end their trip, via the team’s Twitter account:
“I thought the way our guys were competing tonight, it really just shows where we’re headed to with this group. Obviously, it sucks to lose. It hurts to lose, but I was excited. We left a lot of points on the table tonight. As we grow, and some of our younger guys get bigger and stronger, and more familiar with this, those are going to be easier finishes for them. I thought mentally, we had a road mentality for about half the game, which is not enough to beat really good team in Cleveland. But there’s a lot of things I was really happy about with their play tonight. … Overall, really pleased, not just tonight but the whole road trip, with how our guys competed.”
Young teams learning to win games on the road is a process that takes time. And just by hanging in, the Lakers showed a lot more than they had in their five games before the trip, three of which were by double-digits.
The Lakers aren’t going to make the transformation into a winning team overnight, but losses like the one against the Cavaliers and wins against teams like the 76ers are baby steps that the team can’t skip as it continues to try and grow back towards contention.
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