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Friday, February 3, 2012
Lakers Poll: What constitutes a successful road trip?

By Brian Kamenetzky

Six games over 10 days, all on the road.

There will be no easing in period, either. It starts tonight in Denver against a Nuggets team that just throttled a heretofore red hot Clippers squad by 22 points. Next, a trip to Utah, where the Jazz are 10-4, followed by a visit to Philadelphia and a Sixers squad with a 12-2 mark at home and, overall, the NBA's third highest winning percentage.

Game 4 is an always emotional revival of the Lakers/Celtics rivalry. Beware athletes with an opportunity to use a nationally televised game to restore some pride in a season that likely isn't going to finish with the deep playoff run they had hoped for.

Then it's the Knicks and Raptors. I won't insult you by pretending either game is anything but one the Lakers should win, though nothing is really a gimme at the end of a long swing. All told, it makes for something pretty burly.

Probably as good a time as any to note the Lakers are 2-7 on the road, displaying very little consistency, particularly among the reserves. Though they've won three of four overall, only one victory came over a playoff caliber team (last week against the Clippers), making a full buy-in on the mini-hot streak pretty foolish. So toss all these factors, and the myriad others, and ask:

How many wins are required to call the trip successful?

After a brutal early schedule, the Lakers have finally been afforded a little practice time. "It's been good the last several days to get out on the practice court and work on some things. When we watch film, we're seeing some good things, but we're still not playing on a consistent basis in a way we're capable of," Derek Fisher said earlier this week in El Segundo. "But we're making progress and six games on the road, we'll get a chance to continue to find out what we're made of."

The first four games are key. Beyond simply needing to win as often as possible in a tight Western Conference, at some point this Lakers squad has to show it can beat quality teams on someone else's floor. In recent seasons, L.A. had a very strong road identity, eventually serving them well in the postseason.

Obviously if things don't improve at least somewhat, this year's group won't have to worry about a playoff identity, because they won't be in them.

A split in the first four gives the Lakers an excellent chance at a 4-2 trip, a big step towards reversing what is currently an overwhelmingly negative road identity. Even if they botched one of the games on the back end, a .500 trip including two wins over good teams still constitutes a more positive sign than anything they've shown thus far. Who they beat matters.

In terms of record, 3-3 is basically the bare minimum the Lakers need to hit, but if it comes with a 1-3 start the negativity will remain. So I'll say "success" in this case means four wins, because it means at least two came against the type of competition they'll have to beat this spring.