The Los Angeles Lakers are somewhat shockingly in the hunt for the playoffs through the first 21 games of the season. The team has ridden the seventh-best defense in the league to an 8-13 record under head coach Luke Walton, but will get their toughest test yet as they enter a daunting December schedule.
It includes three matchups with the Houston Rockets, two games against the Golden State Warriors and a showdown with the Cleveland Cavaliers, among other contests against upstarts such as the Denver Nuggets and Philadelphia 76ers.
“I want to see them stick together,” Walton said of his team, which begins the gauntlet Saturday with a road-home back-to-back. “I want to see them attack these games as a group. We have some tough challenges ahead of us.
“As long as we do it as a group and keep grinding and pushing together, then I’ll be happy by the end of the month.”
The Lakers might have also caught some teams off guard early on as no one expected the young and frisky squad to be playing such good defense. Now, teams are ready for them.
“I think moving the season up a little bit has caused some sloppy play early,” Walton said of the NBA’s new, earlier-starting schedule that was put into place.
“Now 20 games in, teams should have their rhythm, be in shape, things like that. The schedule, I think I like so far. It’s a little early to tell. I think at the end of the season I can give you a better answer. We started our season with three straight three (games) in four nights. I was thinking to myself, ‘I thought we changed this so we can space it out?’
“Literally, it was our first 12 games were three in four nights. [But] obviously that meant we had four days off for Thanksgiving, which was great. So far, I think it’s been working out nicely.”
The Lakers will have to see how “nicely” the schedule continues to treat them as it gets harsher. Winter is coming, and it’s going to be a long night before the Lakers see several easy games in a row on the docket again.
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