Treading a fine line

Treading a fine line

The Lakers didn’t show any apprehension heading into their match against the Sixers yesterday. It didn’t matter that they had lost the last six meetings, or that they were three and five on the road so far in the young season. If anything, they waxed optimistic, choosing to delve on the positives while acknowledging the hurdles they were set to face at the Wells Fargo Center. Winners of four of their last five and seven of their last nine contests, they believed they could ride on no small measure of momentum to at least stay competitive versus the highly touted hosts.

So much for confidence. Although the Lakers started well enough to hold the lead through the first four minutes and change of yesterday’s set-to, they were unable to sustain their effort the rest of the way. In fact, the Sixers needed only the next third of the first quarter to build a double-digit lead, and then proceeded to add to it by the minute. Once the battlesmoke cleared, the 44-point difference in the final score told the story. And so thorough was the shellacking that every single player on the victorious side wound up with positive plus-minus totals, while every single player on the losing side stood on the other end of the spectrum.

To be fair, the Lakers were far from complete. They continued to suffer from absences that handicapped their roster. Theirs was an eight-man rotation at best, hardly adequate in their bid to keep pace with the vaunted Sixers. Meanwhile, the latter clearly benefited from addition by subtraction, turning the loss of supposed vital cog James Harden into an advantage under the tutelage of new head coach Nick Nurse. And with Tyrese Maxey proving to be the perfect complement to reigning Most Valuable Player Joel Embiid, it was evident that the visitors would have their work cut out for them.

If there’s any silver lining for the Lakers, it’s that they will next face the lowly Pistons after a day’s rest. The Rockets and Mavericks then complete the schedule for the rest of the week prior to a long break. Hopefully, the rotation can improve in the interim. (Gabe Vincent will be evaluated next week. Jarred Vanderbilt is ramping up “in small segments.” Rui Hachimura looks to be recovering from surgery. Cam Reddish has been day to day.) Until then, the plan is to keep afloat, riding on the healthy bodies without exposing themselves to injury. They’re treading a fine line, but not without risk.


Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and human resources management, corporate communications, and business development.