Since Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol represented L.A. on February 17-21, the Lakers have won 13 of the 14 games they’ve played, including six on the road and all seven at STAPLES Center, a winning rate of .928.
They’ve done it primarily with excellent defense, allowing 100+ points only twice, both times in overtime games at Portland (106-101) and in the triple OT offensive thriller against Phoenix on Tuesday night (139-137).
With 11 more games to play, L.A. has a chance to improve upon the 30-4 mark established by Phil Jackson’s Lakers in his first season in Los Angeles. That .882 success rate is the highest of Jackson’s tenure:
LAKERS POST ALL-STAR BREAK RECORD:
1999-2000: 30-4, .882
2000-01: 25-10, .714
2001-02: 25-11, .694
2002-03: 26-9, .743
2003-04: 25-7, .781
2005-06: 19-11, .633
2006-07: 12-16, .429
2007-08: 22-8, .733
2008-09: 23-7, .767
2009-10: 16-12, .571
2010-11: 13-1, .928 (11 games to play)
In Jackson’s first five seasons, with Shaquille O’Neal in the middle, L.A.’s win percentage improved notably after the break, and also in 2005-06. But since then, only 2007-08 has seen a better record after the break. In 2008-09 and 2009-10, the Lakers stormed out of the gates, winning 80.8 percent and 75.9 percent of their pre-break games, before falling off to 76.7 and 57.1 percent, respectively, coasting into the playoffs with big leads in the Western Conference.
But this season, L.A. went 38-19 prior to the break (.667), with the San Antonio Spurs (now 57-13) opening a big lead of their own. The one-loss record for the Lakers has them still seven games back in the loss column and 6.5 overall to the Spurs, who lost Tim Duncan for at least a few games due to a sprained ankle just before hitting one of their toughest stretches of the season (@ DEN, @ POR, @ MEM, vs. POR, vs. BOS, @ HOU, vs. PHO, @ ATL).
Even with that schedule, it’s unlikely that the Spurs would lose enough games for L.A. to even have a chance of catching them, since they’d need to drop seven of 12 games with the Lakers running the table just for a tie. But what the Lakers have done with their recent success is pass Dallas (49-21) and catch up to the Eastern Conference leaders like Chicago (51-19), Boston (50-19) and Miami (48-22) in a race for the No. 2 overall seed in the league.
Up next for the Lakers in a light end-of-month schedule is a Friday tilt against the Clippers, as Andrew Bynum returns from a two-game suspension. Then a Sunday hosting of potential first round opponent New Orleans (40-31), and next Thursday’s showdown with Dallas.