Road trips frequently require greater effort and focus from the travelling team; the Lakers are a veteran team with years of experience. They handled the injury and road trip predictably well, playing good games against each opponent and managing to squeak out a victory against Boston.
Injuries frequently give a team greater focus and energy levels as players try to "make up" for the loss by playing harder.
However, every raise in energy level above a player's norm builds a deficit which must eventually be repaid through rest and sleep. If the deficit builds up enough, they will play sluggishly and not fight as hard, causing team efficiency to drop and the team to perform worse.
The Lakers raised their focus and effort on the road trip. They sustained it through the All-Star break. Eventually, it has to be repaid and the effects of Andrew Bynum will show up.
We have been seeing that lately. In their last six games the Lakers have gone 2-4 against the spread. The spread is a useful tool to essentially get a measure of how they are "expected" to do. If they exceed it, they may have been underestimated. If they don't, they were probably overestimated.
They failed to cover the spread hosting New Orleans (overtime) and at Minnesota (only won by three). Then they played hard against the Warriors and Thunder, although it was tied midway through the fourth quarter.
The real question is: How long until the Lakers return to normal energy levels and have a steady run of victories?
They have sustained superior effort for eight games (losing one). Now for the last six games they have been in a funk, winning four and losing two, but under-performing in four of those games.
We can only hope they recover their energy levels soon and play at their usual level.
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