Lakers fans are funny. In the preseason, they tend to think there’s nothing that can stop their team – this tendency was taken to the extreme this year with their signing of Steve Nash and trade for Dwight Howard. In the mind of many Lakers fans, the Michael Jordan Bulls record of 72 regular season wins was in jeopardy.
The moment things go wrong for the Lakers, there’s a panic. “What’s wrong with the Lakers?” All it takes for the head coach to be fired is a 1-4 start.
When looking at a team, it’s important to look at not just the team’s record, but its average margin of victory/defeat. The Lakers might be 3-5 now, but their average scoring margin is +3.4. Their pythagorean winning percentage is .623, the equivalent of a 51 win team. For sure, a final result of 51 wins would be disappointing for the Lakers, but if this is what their slump looks like, then they’re pretty darn good after all.
Meanwhile, the San Antonio Spurs are 7-1, and nobody’s panicking about them. But the Spurs have been winning a number of close games, and have an average scoring margin of +4.0 as a result. That’s just 0.6 points per game better than the Lakers.
In my power rankings, which aim to be the most accurate estimator of how good a team really is, the Lakers rank third and the Spurs rank fourth.
And when the Lakers played the Spurs yesterday, the Spurs ended up winning 84-82. As it turns out, when two teams of about equal strength met on the basketball court, the game came down to the wire. As is fitting of this regular season so far, the Spurs ended up winning a very close game, and the Lakers ended up losing.
There’s nothing wrong with the Lakers.