Miami, however, has hardly looked like a litmus test for anyone lately.
Kobe Bryant(notes) and the Lakers look to add to their NBA-best record with an eighth straight victory Friday night at Staples Center against Dwyane Wade(notes) and the Heat, losers of seven of their last 11.
Los Angeles (14-3) was handed a peculiar schedule to start the season, playing 17 of its first 21 games at home as it begins defense of its NBA title. The champions have taken advantage thus far, beginning and ending November with six-game winning streaks.
The Lakers kept their latest run going to kick off December. Los Angeles raced to a 20-point halftime lead over New Orleans on Tuesday en route to a 110-99 win.
The Lakers have had Pau Gasol(notes) back in the lineup for six of those wins, and the combined record of their opponents during the streak - their longest in-season run since winning 10 in a row from Feb. 8-28, 2008 - is 40-85.
“We’re playing pretty good basketball, but you really can’t measure it,” Jackson said. “I think we’ll get a measure of this team, where we are at this point in the season, with Miami and Phoenix (on Sunday).”
Beginning with Miami (10-8), Los Angeles will play four more home games before embarking on a five-game trip.
“We don’t draw up the schedule,” said Lamar Odom(notes), who’s averaging 6.5 points in just 24.5 minutes since Gasol returned from a strained hamstring. “When you’re playing against teams you feel might be a lesser opponent, we just want to concentrate on doing things just like we do them in practice.
“We want to play the same way against everybody, and for the last couple of games we’ve been able to do that.”
Los Angeles had three seven-game winning streaks last season.
Stretching its latest streak to eight after two days off seems like a strong possibility, particularly considering the Heat will be concluding a back-to-back and playing their third game in four days.
Miami began its four-game Western road trip in fine fashion Tuesday, beating Portland 107-100, but struggled Thursday in Denver. The Nuggets opened a 16-point halftime lead and didn’t look back in a 114-96 victory that dropped the Heat to 4-7 since winning six of their first seven.
“The bottom just fell out,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We couldn’t put together any kind of stops and offensively we weren’t executing with any kind of pace, energy or passion. We’re better than this. We’ve shown that.”
The win over the Trail Blazers was Miami’s only one by more than a point in its current stretch.
While Bryant is shooting a season-best 48.9 percent and has increased his scoring average two points from last season - his 28.8 points are second in the league - Wade seems to have taken a step back.
The NBA’s reigning scoring champion is shooting a career-low 42.7 percent, and his average has dropped 3.5 points from his career-high 30.2 last season. He’s averaging 23.8 points on 40.2 percent from the field in his last nine games.
The Lakers are 12-0 this season when Bryant scores at least 21.