The Los Angeles Lakers have sandwiched seven-game winning streaks around their lone loss of the season, looking every bit like the NBA’s most dominant team.
It would be very surprising if they don’t get to eight straight wins this time.
Los Angeles will put its perfect road record on the line on Tuesday night at Conseco Fieldhouse, as it begins a three-game eastern trip against the struggling Indiana Pacers.
The Lakers (14-1) won their first seven games by an average of 17.0 points, displaying perhaps the league’s deepest roster around reigning MVP Kobe Bryant. They stumbled for the first time on Nov. 14, losing 106-95 at home to Detroit, but haven’t lost since.
Los Angeles averaged 104.7 points during its 7-0 start, but has turned up the offense during its latest seven-game win streak, scoring 112.7 points per game.
Good defense has keyed the Lakers’ 5-0 record on the road, where they are allowing 90.6 points per game and forcing an average of 18.2 turnovers.
They held an opponent below 40 percent from the field for the sixth time this season on Sunday in a 112-99 win over Toronto. Pau Gasol led the way with 24 points and Bryant added 23 on 9-of-14 shooting for Los Angeles, which is off to its best start since opening 16-1 in 2001-02.
“I think (starting) 10-5 would have been great with us, but we’ve been playing well enough to get that momentum,” coach Phil Jackson said. “Now we’re just playing on momentum most of the time.”
Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal averaged more than half of Los Angeles’ points seven years ago, leading the franchise to its third consecutive championship, but this team features better balance. Bryant scores 24.4 points per game—his fewest in five years—but six other Lakers average between 8.9 and 16.9 points.
One of those players is Andrew Bynum (12.4 ppg), who has started all 15 games after recovering from a knee injury that shut him down after mid-January last season. The 21-year-old center has a small bone spur in his right foot, suffered in a win over New Jersey last week, but has had back-to-back 18-point, 10-rebound games.
“There’s going to be a period of adjustment he has to go through,” Jackson said. “… But unless this moves around in his foot, we’re in pretty good shape if he can adjust his play to accommodate that.”
Bynum was around for both of the Lakers’ wins over Indiana (6-10) last season, shooting 14-for-17 from the field while averaging 20.0 points, 11.5 rebounds and 4.0 blocks.
The duo of Gasol and Bynum may be too much for the Pacers to handle, particularly considering their struggles against one of the league’s best big men in their latest game. Dwight Howard had 32 points and 21 rebounds as Orlando handed Indiana its seventh loss in nine games, 110-96 on Saturday.
“We just do not have a dominating inside presence right now,” O’Brien said. “We think Roy is going to grow into one but, by and large, we get our points in the paint off movement. We don’t have a dominating low-post game.”
The Lakers lead the league in points in the paint (48.5 per game), but the Pacers are also in the top 10 (42.8 ppg).
One player who’s scored all over the court is Indiana forward Danny Granger, who’s sixth in the league in scoring (24.2 ppg) and is averaging 31.5 points in his last two games.
The Pacers had won four straight at home against the Lakers before a 134-114 loss on Nov. 20, 2007.