Lakers’ Motto: ‘Have Gun-Will Travel’
How the Los Angeles Lakers’ ability to dominate teams on the road has been the key to their taking control of the wild Western Conference
The Los Angeles Lakers have begun the 2019–20 NBA season with a league best 20–3 record that includes winning eleven straight games on the road. In fact, the Lakers’ only three losses have come at Staples Center in LA.
Like the bounty hunter Paladin played by Richard Boone in the late 50’s early 60’s TV western ‘Have Gun — Will Travel,’ the deadly Lakers have gunned down their opponents one-by-one as they roamed the Wild West. The Lakers’ three most recent bounties included back-to-back beatdowns of two teams on their top-ten most wanted list in the Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz plus the demolition of long time nemeses Portland Trailblazers.
The Lakers don’t care whether they collect their bounties dead or alive. They left the mile high Nuggets alive beating them by only nine points but literally killed the Jazz and Blazers, crushing them by over twenty points. During their eleven game road win streak, the Lakers’ offensive rating was #2, defensive rating #5, and net rating #2 while their effective field goal percentage was #1 and their true shooting percentage #2 in the league.
The Lakers will be heading east gunning for more bounties in December, including the Heat in Miami on the 13th, the Pacers in Indianapolis on the 17th, and then the #1 most wanted Bucks in Milwaukee on the 19th. Throw in side trips to Orlando for the Magic, Atlanta for the Hawks, and a second trip to Portland for the Trailblazers and the Lakers will be gunning to extend their league best road winning streak to seventeen games.
Like surviving as a bounty hunter in the old west, winning as an NBA contender in the new west demands learning how to thrive on the road, which requires a versatile Lakers’ offense and defense that travels well. With a deep, talented roster with six former All-Defensive honorees, the Lakers lead the league in blocked shots and dunks, a lethal combination that gives them a solid two-way foundation for surviving on the road.
The result is a dominating team that’s almost unbeatable when they’re shots are falling and never out of a game even when their shooting falters because of their reliance on a paint driven top-five offense and defense. While other teams have committed to living and dying with three-point shooting, the Lakers have bet their championship hopes on their ability to protect the paint on defense and physically dominate it on offense.
That’s a unique formula in today’s analytic driven NBA but it’s one that’s intentionally designed and perfectly built to thrive in the playoffs, where breaking through and winning on the road is often the key to success. Proving they’re road warriors has earned the Lakers well deserved respect from NBA pundits and Vegas oddsmakers as the favorite to win the their seventeenth championship at the quarter pole of the 2019–20 season.
How the Lakers perform throughout December and in their next six road games will go a long way towards determining how good this team really is and just how far they will be able to go in an NBA that’s ripe for the taking. The Lakers have a 4-game lead over the second place Dallas Mavs in the Western Conference and a big part of the reason for this early lead has been their ability to weather adversity, buck headwinds, and win on the road
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