The Los Angeles Lakers have shown time and time again during the first half of this shortened NBA season that they are the best all-around team in the league.
The dynamic duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis continues to fire on all cylinders while the rest of the league struggles to keep up.
Although the Lakers are arguably the best squad the NBA has to showcase at the moment, the Purple and Gold are also a team dealing with fatigue on another level.
After winning the franchise’s 17th NBA title, the Lakers had the shortest offseason of any team that participated in the bubble in Orlando, Fla. James and company had only 72 days to recoup and prepare to defend their title, and now that shortened offseason may be taking a toll with two straight losses on the road.
Although the absence of Davis was noticeable, it wasn’t the main reason for the loss.
“Playing without Anthony, we were just looking to find a rhythm with combinations that are not used to being out there,” Frank Vogel said. “We just didn’t find it. We’ve been pretty good on the road, but tonight was definitely not our night.”
Los Angeles is on the tail end of a seven-game road trip that started as strong as could be expected with three straight wins. Unfortunately, things changed after the 76ers took the defending champions down to the wire and came out on top earlier this week.
Not only did the team lose Davis to a bruised right quadriceps, but fatigue may be starting to play a factor in this repeat campaign physically and mentally.
“It still is a mental toll,” Kyle Kuzma said after the loss to the Pistons. “Everybody is locked away in their rooms. It’s still a pandemic out here. That’s not an excuse to lose at all, but just everyday human life. Yeah, for sure. It’s always going to be a mental toll.”
Regardless of the mental and physical toll, the Lakers still have one goal in mind as they push forward and take everything they can handle from opponents that want to take down the defending champions.
“There’s still work to be done,” James said. “There’s games to be played, work to be done. We have to continue to get better and you can’t really get your mind into the grasp of how many days you’ve been on the road or whatever the case may be.
“Every team does it. Every team hits a long road trip. As professionals, we’ve got to keep our minds fresh, our bodies fresh as much as we can to go out there and put together a complete 48-minute game or as close to 48 minutes.”
Every team is giving the Lakers its best shot, and that won’t get any easier moving forward as teams start to separate themselves and prepare for the second half of the season. The next test for Los Angeles is its archrivals in the Boston Celtics on Saturday night.
Although fatigue impacts most athletes at age 36, James is the exception in his mind, as he explained on Thursday night.
“I don’t get tired,” James said. “I don’t feel tired. I get my sleep, I get my rest. I have a lot of energy. I don’t really get tired and my mindset never gets to a point, ‘This is a long road trip. I’m exhausted, I’m tired.’ I don’t even think about that.
“We have our games, I’m ready to go. When we’re not playing, I have an opportunity to rest and get my body right. Get my mind refreshed, but I don’t get tired.”
On Saturday, the Lakers will have a chance to bounce back after a day’s rest as they fly to Boston to take on Jayson Tatum and the Celtics in hopes of getting back to their winnings ways.