The Los Angeles Lakers have been dominant on the road so far this season, posting a franchise-best, 10-0 record away from Staples Center to start the year.
However, L.A. faces perhaps its stiffest test on the road when the take on the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. local time on ESPN.
The Sixers are tops in the Eastern Conference at 12-6. Philadelphia is a league-best 9-1 at home this year.
Joel Embiid leads the Sixers, averaging 27.7 points and 11.5 rebounds a contest. Philadelphia also has the top 3-point shooter in the NBA in Seth Curry, who averages 56 percent shooting from beyond the arc.
Former Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers now handles the head coaching duties for Philadelphia. And the Lakers also will see some familiar faces in former teammates Danny Green and Dwight Howard, now with the Sixers.
But for the Lakers, who are 4-4 at home, playing on the road has seemed to bring them together, building chemistry and recreating a winning culture that helped Los Angeles win the NBA title last season.
Here are 10 reasons the Lakers have been so successful on the road at the start of this season:
1. Fast start
The Lakers have jumped out on teams early, grabbing the lead and seizing control of the game. Los Angeles averages 28.6 points a game in the opening quarter on the road, outscoring their opponents by four points a game on average. They have led six of the 10 games on the road this season at the end of the first quarter.
2. 3-point shooting
The Lakers average 38.9 percent as a team from beyond the arc, No. 5 in the NBA. And Los Angeles has shot slightly better from the 3-point line on the road, at 39.5 percent. Specifically, LeBron James has heated up from beyond the arc, averaging 47 percent from the 3-point line on the road compared to 34 percent at Staple Center. James leads the Lakers with 49 made 3-pointers.
3. Ball movement
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel has stressed ball movement, making the extra pass to create open looks. For the most part, the Lakers have leaned on being unselfish to create opportunities for others. The Lakers average 24.6 assists per game on the road and 25.9 assists per game in the team’s 14 wins, compared to 21.5 assists per game in L.A.’s four losses. The Lakers are shooting 47.6 percent on the road, compared to 49.6 percent at home.
4. Leading with defense
Despite the loss of rim protectors in JaVale McGee and Howard, the Lakers have done a decent job forcing opponents to take tough shots. The Lakers lead the league with a defensive net rating of 103.9. The Lakers average 6.4 blocks per game, second in the league, and are holding teams to 44.7 percent shooting on the year, No. 6 in the NBA. The Lakers also average 7.9 steals per game on the road, compared to 5.9 steals at home.
Cleaning the glass has been a group effort for the Lakers, who averaged 48 rebounds per game on the road compared to 46 per game at home. Anthony Davis leads the Lakers with 8.9 rebounds per game, but James (7.9 rebounds per game), Montrezl Harrell (7.1), Kyle Kuzma (5.6) and Marc Gasol (4.5) also have done a nice job hitting the boards for Los Angeles.
6. Easier schedule
The Lakers lost to the Los Angeles Clippers, Portland Trailblazers, Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs at home -- all four of those teams would be in the postseason if the playoffs started today. Potential playoff teams the Lakers have faced on the road include the Milwaukee Bucks, the Memphis Grizzlies and the Cleveland Cavaliers. However, the Lakers faced Memphis without Ja Morant and Cleveland without Kevin Love and Larry Nance Jr.
7. No home-court advantage
With most arenas not hosting fans -- or a limited amount of fans -- due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, home-court advantage has been a wash, other than visiting teams having to travel and adhere to strict NBA safety protocols on the road. As of Jan. 13, according to ESPN Stat & Information research road teams were 88-78 this season. There has never been a season in NBA history in which road teams finished with a winning record overall.
Led by James, Vogel has done a nice job of creating a selfless environment where players are not worrying about -- at least for now -- individual statistics and willing to sacrifice for the great good of the team. An example of that is regular contributor Markieff Morris taking an DNP so Talen Horton-Tucker could get a decent run in his hometown of Chicago. Winning games helps soothe egos.
9. DepthVogel said this is the deepest team that he can remember and judging by the way L.A.’s bench has paid, he appears right. The Lakers can go 11-deep, and even when players like Davis, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Alex Caruso and Wesley Matthews were not available due to injury, the Lakers still played well.
10. Strong finish
Remember during the season when NBA observers discussed load management for James? Well, haven’t seen a whole lot of that. Despite being listed with a left ankle sprain earlier this year, James has not missed a game, averaging 32.7 minutes a contest, just two minutes less than the 34.6 minutes per game he averaged last year. And James remains one of the best, if not the best, closers in the NBA. James is shooting 29-of-49 (59 percent) from the field and 8-of-15 (53 percent) from beyond the arc on the road in the fourth quarter.