The fact that they’re playing at a 35-win pace would mean 7 or 8 wins out of the 18 games against good teams. They seem to have turned the corner on beating bad teams, which is why I suggested 7 wins in those games. That would be 37 wins.
As far as overachieving, I believe it is the complete opposite. At the beginning of the season, the Lakers couldn’t close out games where they had the lead in the 4th quarter. Not only have they started doing that, but they have won some games against bad teams where they trailed or were close in the first three quarters and gone on to blow them away.
The team culture has changed and they are playing like an elite team in the following ways:
#9 in defensive rating
#10 in rebounding percentage
#6 in offensive rebound percentage
#1 in transition frequency
#2 in second chance points
#2 in fast break points
#1 in points in the paint
#9 in total assists
These guys are the baby Warriors, with the big difference being their 3-point and free throw shooting percentages.
Over the course of their 12–4 record, the team now has four players shooting 35% or better from beyond the arc. That’s the one area where they could regress. And they are still horrible shooting free throws.
But turnovers are the biggest problem, and that statistic is within their control and should continue to improve as the young guys learn. With Clarkson and Nance gone, and Brewer playing far fewer minutes, the only veteran players who are really bad with the ball are Lopez and Randle.
Home vs Road: Beating teams at home by double digits is not a fluke. Their average margin of victory in their last eight games (including the 1-point squeaker against the Celtics) is 15.5. They have 14 games in Los Angeles left, and I think they could win 10 of them.
The big question is whether they can sustain their defensive intensity on the road. If they continue their current winning percentage on the road, that would be 5 wins in their 15 remaining road games, which again would lead to 38 wins.
Tonight is the first game of the great IT experiment. If he gives them a spark with his outside shooting, I hope they can overachieve.