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NBA Fastbreak: Here’s the perfect stat to show how good the Lakers are — or aren’t

Lakers forward Anthony Davis chats with coach Frank Vogel during a game this season.
Forward Anthony Davis and coach Frank Vogel have helped the Lakers start the season 17-2.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

It wasn’t bizarre to see Jared Dudley excited about something. His energy, attitude and spirit are reasons why the Lakers signed him early in free agency and viewed his experience as a positive ingredient.

It was bizarre to see Dudley excited about the prospect of adversity that could be lurking down the line this season.

“I can’t wait to see this room then,” Dudley said with a sly grin.

The Lakers have had it easy so far this season. Their issues — losing Avery Bradley to injury, getting Rajon Rondo back from injury and finding the best ways to integrate Kyle Kuzma — have been masked by two distinct factors.

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One, LeBron James and Anthony Davis are having MVP-caliber seasons, and that can cover up a lot of blemishes. Two, the Lakers’ schedule hasn’t been too difficult. Well, it’s been easy.

The Lakers have beaten some good teams. They stifled Utah and won in Dallas. They beat Miami, which played in Phoenix the night before.

And … that’s it.

The Lakers are 3-2 against teams .500 or better and 14-0 against teams currently with losing records.

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This isn’t to say the Lakers’ start hasn’t been remarkable and that they aren’t the best team in the NBA, which is what Washington coach Scott Brooks called them Friday without hesitation before a 125-103 loss. It’s not James’ fault or coach Frank Vogel’s doing that the schedule worked out the way it did.

Lakers are off to a 17-2 start heading into a Sunday game against Dallas and second-year sensation Luka Doncic. What we know so far this season about the NBA.

It does speak to the Lakers’ mindset — the team is hyper-focused on the moment, and today matters way more than tomorrow. For other teams, namely the Clippers, that’s just not the case.

Clippers coach Doc Rivers has repeatedly said his goal this regular season is to have his team as healthy as possible heading into the playoffs; that he’d trade that for home-court advantage.

The Clippers have lost games because of their long view and it’s hard to know if it’ll hurt their postseason, assuming everyone does get there healthy.

The Lakers, though, play each game with a genuine sense of urgency to meet the energy that greets them from every team. Is it sustainable? At this pace, probably not.

Which strategy works best? It’s too early to tell, but the habits the Lakers are establishing during wins are valuable.

Something is lurking. Maybe it’s some locker-room drama. Maybe an injury or a stretch of cold shooting. Possibly it’s the December schedule, which begins with four out of five games against winning teams, the lone exception a trip to always hostile Portland.

It’ll eventually happen this season. The veterans like Dudley in the Lakers’ locker room know that. When adversity does show, it appears the team will be ready for it.

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Tip-ins

The Lakers/Clippers doubleheader Sunday at Staples Center will be the first time this season when James, Davis, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George play in the same building. … Grizzlies rookie guard Ja Morant has been listed as week to week by Memphis after he left the game Friday night against the Jazz because of back spasms. They first occurred Monday against Indiana. … The toughest schedule remaining belongs to the Golden State Warriors (4-16), who have the NBA‘s worst record and too many injuries to list.

NBA Best Game Ever: Joe Ingles won a EuroLeague title with Maccabi Tel Aviv when he didn’t score a point.


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