Yet this season, L.A. has gone 8-1 in such contests.
Thursday night produced a 92-86 victory over the Celtics to improve the Lakers’ record to 7-3 on the front end of back-to-backs heading into Friday night’s latter half at Madison Square Garden against New York.
One reason for L.A.’s success in back-to-backs this season has been the play of Kobe Bryant, which runs contrary to a prevailing notion that he’s better when having a day or two to rest. Bryant is averaging 27.7 points on 53 percent shooting (and 40 percent from three) with 5.6 assists, 5.4 rebounds and 1.67 steals. Each one of those statistics surpass his season averages of 25.4 points on 45.9 percent shooting (31.5 percent threes), 5.0 assists, 5.2 rebounds and 1.25 steals.
Lamar Odom’s and Andrew Bynum’s numbers are also up slightly in such contests, though Pau Gasol’s are down, though the Spaniard in particular often plays better against better teams. This makes sense as the Lakers have beaten, in order: Sacramento; Detroit; the Clippers; Indiana; New Orleans; Phoenix; Golden State; and Oklahoma City on the second night. The only loss came at Houston on Dec. 1, a night after losing at Memphis.
The Lakers only have six sets of back-to-backs left after the Boston-New York combo a season after playing in 20. In fact, the only other time the Lakers have played 15 or fewer sets of back-to-back games came in the team’s first NBA season, 1948-49, when they also played 15. Chicago, Milwaukee and Atlanta are atop the NBA with 23 back-to-backs each in 2010-11, while Oklahoma City (17) and Phoenix (16) have the next fewest after the Lakers.
We’ll see in a few hours whether or not the Lakers can bring their B2B record up to 9-1 on night No. 2, or if tired legs from Boston catch up to the twice defending champs.