LOS ANGELES — The growth spurt of the youthful Los Angeles Lakers has sprung faster than expected.
“I came into this job with an open mind,” Lakers first-year coach Luke Walton said Sunday, according to the Los Angeles Times, after his club recorded a 119-108 victory over the Phoenix Suns. “They haven't shown me anything to say that they're immature other than the age of a lot of them. They've come to work every single day since we've been here, even before training camp. Their actions speak loud. They're grown men that are in this to get better and to be as good as they can.”
The Lakers will go for their fourth consecutive win when the Dallas Mavericks visit Staples Center on Tuesday.
By beating the Suns, the Lakers (4-3) captured their third straight win for the first time since the 2012-13 season. They also are above the .500 mark after seven games since the Lakers started the 2011-12 campaign with an identical record.
The win over the Suns followed a stunning 20-point rout of the Golden State Warriors on Friday and a surprising road decision over the Atlanta Hawks last Wednesday.
Against Phoenix, the Lakers got valuable contributions from several players, with six scoring in double figures, but none were more notable than Nick Young, who finished with 22 points and seven rebounds. Young spent much of last season on the bench, being a frequent target of the hard-line ways of former Lakers coach Byron Scott.
Los Angeles is 3-0 at home.
“We won 17 games last year,” said forward Larry Nance Jr., according to the Times. Nance won't play against the Mavericks after suffering a concussion in the first half against the Suns. “What are we, 4-3? That's not enough success to get to anybody's head at this point. We're all still hungry and humble and really excited to keep going.”
The Mavericks, who won their first game of the season Sunday night against the Milwaukee Bucks, are hoping to extend their 10-game winning streak over the Lakers, taking the last five at Staples. However, they will have to do so without Dirk Nowitzki, who won't play because of a sore Achilles. The 38-year-old Nowitzki hasn't been available since missing the second half of a 105-95 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday.
Dallas also might be without point guard Deron Williams (strained left calf), who is listed as doubtful for the Lakers' game.
Despite the pair's absences against the Bucks, the Mavericks (1-5) snapped a five-game skid behind a career-best 34 points from Harrison Barnes in an 86-75 overtime win.
“This was just a case of outlasting an opponent,” said Dallas coach Rick Carlisle, according to the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram. “On defense, we were great. You look at the whole game and we had a plan — we got down early — but we stuck with it.”
“We made these guys beat us in the half-court game and these games can be ugly. But in our situation right now, it's what we have to do to win games.”