Lakers roll to franchise-record 7-0 start on road

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LeBron James can’t be stopped from behind the arc as he’s shooting with ease, draining back-to-back 3-pointers. (0:22)

LeBron James can’t be stopped from behind the arc as he’s shooting with ease, draining back-to-back 3-pointers. (0:22)

The Los Angeles Lakers finished off an unblemished road trip on Wednesday, winning the three games by a combined 64 points, and they set a franchise record in the process by beginning the season 7-0 away from home.

After Lakers coach Frank Vogel informed the team its 128-99 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the 1985-86 Lakers’ road mark of 6-0 to start things off, Anthony Davis couldn’t help but wonder if the records can compare, considering how COVID-19 has changed everything.

“Is it really a road game? You don’t know. There’s no fans,” Davis told reporters on a video conference call after the Thunder game. “So, the court [design] is the only difference. But we go out and try to compete each and every night. We’re still trying to figure things out, and when we get a win out of it, it just makes it a bonus.”

These Lakers proved to be road warriors last season, reeling off 17 straight Western Conference away victories at one point, finishing with the third-best road winning percentage in league history (.750) and capturing the NBA championship after spending 96 straight days in the bubble in Orlando, Florida.

While the road success has continued, the circumstances have been completely scrambled. The Lakers played the first two games of this 3-0 trip in Houston in front of socially distanced crowds of 3,221 — the announced “sellout” attendance for the Toyota Center, which normally holds around an 18,300 capacity for an NBA game.

It wasn’t a hostile experience in an opposing arena, but rather a sight for sore eyes for some Lakers players who missed the fans’ presence at Staples Center, where L. A. County safety protocols prevent any spectators from attending.

“It was great to see some fans in Houston,” LeBron James said Wednesday. “Me playing the game that I love to play, then along with the fans, it’s something I dream about all the time.”

Road success has been a trend in the league so far, not just for the Lakers. Road teams are 88-78 this season, according to data compiled by ESPN Stats & Information. There’s never been a season in NBA history in which road teams finished with a winning record overall.

But there are unique challenges to this season too.

Before L. A.’s second game of the trip, the league adjusted its health and safety protocols, implementing a score of further restrictions as a rash of positive coronavirus tests caused a handful of games to be postponed across the country.

Before the Thunder game, Vogel said his team’s competitive edge has carried over to guarding against COVID-19.

“We want to be a team that adheres to the protocols better than the rest of the teams in the league,” he said. “We want to be the best at that.”

Thus far, it’s worked for the Lakers, with only three reported instances of their team members being in breach of the protocols.

“We just have a bunker mentality when we go on the road; it’s just us,” James said. “And obviously, it’s even more just us, because of the restrictions and the COVID and everything that’s going on. So, we come together even closer.”

And with no mass return by fans on the horizon any time soon, Lakers reserve Montrezl Harrell wanted to make sure his team’s road dominance received its due, regardless.

“Honestly, at the end of the day, man, you got to respect it, because we went out and played the games, no matter whether the fans were there or not,” Harrell said. “Can’t no fans score a single basket or make a stop on a defensive possession.

“So, we went on the road and we still carried out our game plan both offensively and defensively to win the game. So, I don’t care if fans are in the arena or not. That has nothing to do with what’s going on in between those four lines. So, I don’t pay that any mind. We came out, we’ve done a great job on the road thus far and we’ll just continue.”

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