Lakers have mixed record in back-to-back games
As if the Lakers' current eight-game trip isn't grinding enough, the travel also includes three sets of back-to-back games. That obviously makes logistics, such as hotels, flights and meals, even more difficult to manage and makes something like an Andrew Bynum missed flight even more disastrous. Let's not forget practice -- Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said the team hasn't had a full practice session since Jan. 19 at the Lakers' facility.
And then there's maintaining the energy level, something that was on high display in the Lakers' 115-103 victory Tuesday over the Washington Wizards. But the Lakers have a game again tonight against the Indiana Pacers, marking the team's second set of back-to-backs on this trip. The Lakers (34-11) have had 11 sets of back-to-back games so far this season, meaning 22 of 45 (48.8%) of their games have come on back-to-back contests. Consider the results (after the jump).
*Nov. 3-4: A 101-98 W @ Oklahoma City; a 103-92 W @ Houston.
*Nov. 12-13: A 121-102 home W over Phoenix; a 105-79 L @ Denver.
*Nov. 28-29: A 130-97 W @ Golden State; a 106-97 home W over New Jersey.
*Dec. 11-12: A 104-92 home W over Minnesota; a 102-94 L @ Utah.
*Dec. 15-16: A 96-87 W @ Chicago; a 107-106 W @ Milwaukee.
*Dec. 19-20: A 103-84 W @ New Jersey; a 93-81 W @ Detroit.
*Dec. 25-26: A 102-87 home L to Cleveland; a 112-103 W @ Sacramento.
*Dec. 28-29: A 118-103 L @ Phoenix; a 124-118 home W over Golden State.
*Jan. 5-6: A 88-79 home W to Houston; a 102-91 "road" L to the Clippers.
*Jan.12-13: A 105-85 L @ San Antonio; a 100-95 W @ Dallas.
*Jan. 21-22: A 93-87 L @ Cleveland; a 115-105 W @ New York.
Here's some number crunching based on that data. The Lakers have won four complete sets of back-to-backs so far this season and have gone .500 in the remaining seven sets. In the six sets that involved a back-to-back home and away game (including the Clippers), the Lakers have only won both games once. In the five sets that featured two back-to-back road games, the Lakers won both games three times but they have split the difference in the two most recent sets. That included a 105-85 loss Jan. 12 to the San Antonio Spurs followed by a 100-95 victory the next day to the Dallas Mavericks. It also included a 93-87 loss Jan. 21 to the Cleveland Cavaliers followed by a 115-105 victory over the New York Knicks.
Surely, those results don't take into account everything. The Lakers' road sweep against Golden State and New Jersey just confirms those teams aren't good. The Lakers' loss to Utah on Dec. 12 also came the day after Kobe Bryant suffered an avulsion fracture to his right index finger (are we still talking about this?). The Lakers' losses to the Clippers and San Antonio came without Pau Gasol (left hamstring); the latter loss came with Bryant missing the entire fourth quarter because of back spasms.
If pure numbers tell us anything, it says the Lakers should win tonight against the Pacers. That's not just because of Indiana's 16-29 record and that the Lakers have never lost their second game on a set of back-to-back games that featured two road contests.
There are numbers that illustrate the Lakers performing better on the second day of a back-to-back. Consider the increase from the players' regular scoring average to their average on the second day of a back-to-back: Bryant (28.3, 29.5), Gasol (17.3, 20.09), Ron Artest (11.3, 12.1) and Lamar Odom (9.6, 10.1). The only exceptions among the Lakers starters include Andrew Bynum (15.5, 13.7) and Derek Fisher (7.1, 6.3).
Comparing the efficiency ratings from the regular season to the second night of a back-to-back presents a different story. Gasol (25.4, 32), Bryant (23.8, 24.5) and Artest (12.5, 13.8) are more efficient after zero days of rest, while Bynum (19.6, 19.3) Odom (17.4, 15.3) and Fisher (8.0, 5.5) see a dropoff.
It's likely the Lakers won't be thinking about these numbers tonight, and they shouldn't be. But these trends still reveal the inconsistency during the team's sets of back-to-backs, something the Lakers can correct, starting against Indiana.
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Photo: The Lakers are going through an eight-game trip that features three back-to-backs. Credit: Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times.