New Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni presided over two games in two nights.
On the first night, his team beat a deep Brooklyn Nets team that was on a five game winning streak. On the second night, D’Antoni witnessed his team of veterans get easily handled by a team on a five-game losing streak. D’Antoni inherited a team with two faces, and that is not a good thing.
For the last couple years, Lakers fans have discuss the possibility of their team having a "switch" that they can just flip on and start playing hard. In each of the last two seasons, the Lakers have not been able to find that switch when it mattered most—in the playoffs.
The problem of the "switch" may be as simple as home and away. For a veteran team that is supposed to be able to win in any environment, the Lakers simply have not performed away from home. In last season’s lockout-shortened campaign, the Lakers complied a 15-18 losing record on the road. To this point, the Lakers are 0-3 away from home with losses to Utah, Sacramento, and Portland. None of these teams are over .500.
The other face of the Lakers shows itself at home. The Lakers were 26-7 at home last season, tied for second best in the Western conference with Oklahoma City and Memphis. Only Miami and San Antonio boasted a better home record than the Lakers at home.
This season, the Lakers are 6-3 at home. The first loss rang bells on Mike Brown’s coaching ability when the Lakers lost to a short-handed Dallas Mavericks team on opening day. The second loss came against an improved Clippers team that leads the division and has claimed wins over Miami and San Antonio (twice). The third loss was a hard-fought game against the Spurs that the Lakers lost in the final seconds.
All three home losses can be forgiven, as two came under former coach Mike Brown, and one came under interim-coach Bernie Bickerstaff. The problem with the Lakers is not how they play at home; the problem is that the Lakers cannot beat NBA bottom-dwellers away from home.
D’Antoni was visibly shocked when his team lost by 16 points on Wednesday night in Sacramento. “We got to have an effort," D'Antoni said with concern in his eyes. "We can’t win a championship this way.” D'Antoni finished by saying, “We have to come out with a different mentality. We’ll change that.”