Starting on Wednesday, the Los Angeles Lakers enter a difficult 10-game stretch against a plethora of playoff-hopeful teams. Among the contests include two bouts against the Houston Rockets and a trio of games against the Golden State Warriors.
The Lakers will also begin a daunting East Coast road trip next Thursday with stops in Cleveland and Philadelphia. Rounding out the stretch are matchups against the Charlotte Hornets and New York Knicks.
With an 8-12 record, the remainder of the calendar year will pose a challenging test if the Lakers hope to end a five-year playoff drought. It all begins on Wednesday night when they welcome back former teammate Nick Young and hosts the Warriors for the first time this season at Staples Center.
Lakers forward Larry Nance Jr. is approaching the contest with a must-win mentality, noting that the entire team is also excited for their first opportunity to face the defending champions.
“You try to go into it like a normal game, but it’s the Warriors,” Nance said. “It’s the champs and everything. Any time you’re playing a team of that caliber, you really get up for it. I think everybody in here is bouncing off the walls and champing at the bit to get at ’em.
“We just have to come out and hit them hard, first. That first quarter is going to be huge for us. That’s a team that the second you slip behind once, they’re lead can go from two to 30 like that. We’ve got to stay on them, stay persistent and stay focused.”
Luke Walton, previously an assistant with the Warriors, echoed a similar sentiment. “I’m excited. They’re the champs,” Walton said.
“But it’s the same answer I always give, because it’s true. It’s exciting to play the best but at the same time nothing changes for us and what we’re trying to do. It’s boring.
“It’s getting back in transition defense, it’s taking the challenge on, and all those basic fundamentals that we’ve been preaching all year is the message we’ll be sending to our guys.”
Last season, the Lakers posted a 1-3 record against the Warriors. The team won its first game against the eventual NBA Champions by 20 points, but proceeded to drop the next three by more than double-digits each time.
After losing back-to-back winnable games against the Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Clippers, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Lakers come out with extra energy against the Warriors and play them competitively as they’ve shown in recent seasons.
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