Lakers' road losses adding up
If L.A. can't win away from Staples, it will get more road games in the playoffs
MIAMI -- Outside of the friendly confines of Staples Center, the Lakers have been getting nailed pretty much everywhere they go this season.
Los Angeles' 98-87 loss in Miami on Thursday puts the Lakers' road record at an abysmal 1-5, tied for the second-worst in the West behind Sacramento.
(Actually, that line in the opening about Staples Center as the friendly confines was a misnomer. When the lights were turned up and the purple-and-gold accented court was replaced by the Clippers' blue-and-red hardwood, they lost by eight.)
The Lakers have lost the five games by an average of 9.6 points. It's their worst start to a season away from home since going 1-8 to tip off the schedule in 2002-03 and it gets even uglier.
If you think about it, the Lakers are basically a Pau Gasol overtime 3-pointer in Utah away from being winless on the road with a quarter of the season already in the books.
"We just aren't bringing it on the road," Andrew Bynum said after another hapless night, this time against the Heat, when Miami even did L.A. the favor of wearing a black alternative uniform so the Lakers could wear their gold home jerseys, and they still couldn't get it done. "We're not creating our own energy and playing together."
Teams are expected to win more at home then they are on the road, sure, but with the Lakers' home-heavy start to the season, they'll be packing their bags a lot more from here on out. Including the Miami game, 13 of the Lakers' next 19 games are on the road.
Why is it a problem? Well, the thing is, a team that can't win on the road during the regular season receives more road games as a reward for the postseason.
Right now, the Lakers' 10-6 record is sixth-best in the West, meaning no home playoff series, let alone home-court advantage for multiple rounds or into the Finals when, if they were fortunate enough to get there, they could face a Miami team that's beaten them seven out of the last eight times they've played at AmericanAirlines Arena.
"Obviously, in most peoples' eyes it's probably a little bit tougher to play on the road," said Lakers coach Mike Brown after the game. "The home team gets energized by the crowd. But, I don't look at it as what do we do on the road and what do we do at home, I believe we can win on the road. Our record on the road is obviously not good, but at the end of the day we'll be fine."
Brown had the same dismissive attitude about the Lakers' recent string of lousy play in Miami at his team's shootaround Thursday, saying, "Even if we were 0-15 or 0-20 [in Miami], to me, this is a new game." And look where that got the Lakers.
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There's nothing to be ashamed about losing a game on the road to a very good team with a very good player like LeBron James playing to the best of his abilities, but there's also a way to lose that's more palatable. Give them a tough game and don't close it out because the other squad has some home cookin' working for them? That's acceptable. Fall down by 15 at the half to a team that's playing without Dwyane Wade and never cut it back below 10 while making boneheaded plays like throwing balls away right to James and allowing him to break out his Akron Hammer dunk in his shiny new black-on-black uniform? That can't happen. Not for championship teams, at least.
"You can't play from behind on the road on a consistent basis," said Lakers co-captain Derek Fisher after the game. Fisher has long had road wins on his mind after seeing what it took to build contenders five times in the past. He emphasized the importance of L.A.'s back-to-back in Miami and Orlando on Monday, immediately after beating Dallas with his last-second 3.
"If I think about most of our road games, we've played from behind quite a bit and that's a tough thing to do when you're playing against good, quality teams ... We have to figure it out. There aren't any excuses. We have to figure out how to win games on the road. Period," Fisher said.
If you think of the Lakers' most recent back-to-back title-winning teams, they constantly proved their mettle on the road, whether it was going to Boston and exorcising demons in the 2008-09 regular season or closing out playoff series on the road in Oklahoma City and Phoenix in 2010.
Kobe Bryant offered a simple checklist to get back on track outside of L.A.
"Just control tempo," Bryant said. "Manage turnovers. Understand certain momentum shifts in the game."
In the bigger picture, the Lakers need to understand that any momentum they build for themselves at home will be dashed if they can't back it up on the road.
"Just 'cause we beat Dallas, that doesn't mean we've arrived. We still have a long way to go," Brown said before the game.
Yes, they have a long way to go. A flight to Orlando, a flight to Oklahoma City, a flight to San Antonio, a flight to Dallas. And on and on and on.
It would be nice for L.A. if they brought back a win as a souvenir every once in a while.
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.