Each season the work begins when the NBA schedule first comes out. Maybe not for the veteran players or even the newly acquired rookies but the general manager and definitely the coaching staff kicks it into full gear. The staff looks to see when there will be easier stretches and when there will be tougher stretches, long home-stands or long road-trips. Recognizing these areas on the schedule will be especially important for Lakers Head Coach Mike D'antoni and his coaching staff as it is their job to keep the Lakers healthy and fresh, all while winning games. Each year there are those games where your eyeballs stay glued to the screen. The Lakers are 2-2 thus far in the preseason and have shown flashes of good things to come. Their last game was on Thursday as they lost to their rival, the Sacramento Kings by a final score of 104-86 in Las Vegas.
With a long weekend of no Lakers basketball, as the boys in "Purple and Gold" are over in China where they play the Warriors early Tuesday Morning, we have time to look ahead at the regular season and find out wheat games will truly test this Lakers squad.
1) Los Angeles Lakers vs Los Angeles Clippers (Opening Night) 10/29
In a game where they are likely going to be without superstar Kobe Bryant, the Lakers look to beat the team who more or less took away the crown of L.A. from them last season. The Clippers won the Pacific division with a 56-26 record overall, a record that was eleven games better than the Lakers. If the Lakers can pull out a victory on opening night over Chris Paul and the Clippers, it will not only garner respect from the NBA but the fans of L.A. as well.
2) Los Angeles Lakers at Denver Nuggets 11/13
Just over two weeks into the season and the Lakers would already be playing their fourth back-to-back game series. But unlike the other three series this one takes the Lakers from their home court the night before and on to a plane to travel to Denver to play the Nuggets the very next night. It will be interesting to see how the Lakers can hold up after the travel. The Nuggets are a very quick, very athletic team who like to run. No doubt the Lakers will be tired and may even rest some players to keep them fresh. If they do decide to go that path it is a chance for the bench players to log a lot of quality minutes and gain valuable game time that will pay off later in the season.
3) Los Angeles Lakers at Oklahoma City Thunder 12/13
A game where the Lakers travel to Oklahoma City to take on Kevin Durant and the Thunder. This game is the first of four on the road and the beginning of seven games in eleven days with six of those being played on the road. The Thunder are one of the top, if not the top team in the Western Conference. A win by the "Lake Show" over the talented Thunder would be a great boost of confidence that can be used throughout the road trip. A stretch that will easily be one of the tougher of the season for the Lakers.
4) Los Angeles Lakers vs Miami Heat (Christmas Day) 12/25
Another Christmas Day, another game for the Los Angeles Lakers. Arguably, the top two players in the NBA squaring off against each other is always a big draw for NBA fans. Each year on Christmas the Lakers wear their usual Sunday white. This year they will have to try and take down the two time defending champions in Lebron James and the Miami Heat. Last year the Heat beat the Lakers by 20 and they haven't forgotten that. Lets be honest what is better to do on Christmas Day after presents then watch the Lakers while sipping on some egg nog, spiked or unspiked of course.
5) Los Angeles Lakers vs Houston Rockets 4/8
Coming into the last stretch of the season the Lakers take on a lot of teams that could be fighting with the Lakers and others for playoff seeding. That stretch starts with the Houston Rockets and is followed up with the Warriors, Grizzlies, Jazz and Spurs. Aside from the Spurs, each of those teams finished in the bottom half of the Western Conference playoff bracket last season, with the Jazz finishing in ninth place and just missing the postseason. If the Lakers end up being in the playoff hunt this stretch will be one to watch as the season comes to an end.
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