THIS STRONG START CARRIES THE POWER OF INTIMIDATION

he helpless looks on their faces. The slumped shoulders with the body language matching the low end of the scoreboard. Opponents of the Lakers this season have been left so frustrated it often seems like one teammate has forgotten to feed the other’s dog.

A lot of those looks down the stretch Tuesday from the Denver Nuggets. So, so many hunched backs Wednesday from the Utah Jazz.

After a home loss to Dallas, the Lakers responded by revealing their determination never to lose consecutive games this season—and stepping out on what Kyle Kuzma called “probably the toughest back-to-back you can have in the NBA” by absolutely putting their foot down in Denver and Utah.

The impact is sending more tremors throughout this league.

The magnificent basketball the Lakers have played so far this season is really a lesson in causality.

The action is them playing with dominance and prominence; the surface reaction is opponents’ discouragement and all the sad faces and stooped shoulders. Yet here’s what looms as even more powerful causality for the Lakers with this authoritative start:

They could be planting a seed of doubt to grow in the minds of everyone else in the NBA … meaningful now, major later and potentially paying off huge come playoff time.

Maybe the Lakers really are this hard to beat? … Maybe the Lakers are on to something special by playing big when we were all trying to go small, digging in on defense when we gave in to the easy way out of switching everything? … Maybe it makes sense a new team could be this immediately harmonious when teammates feel the constant love of LeBron James’ passing and Anthony Davis’ defending, both of which make everyone’s lives so much easier? … Maybe besides their talent, they actually want it more, too—which is downright scary.

The causality of dominance? Intimidation.

And in head-to-head competition, even a seed of intimidating doubt is gold.

Right now, during this torrid start to their season, there is no denying the Lakers have been great. James has been great. Davis has been great. Many others have been great in their roles.

They together have already begun being intimidating, as a result.

The Lakers’ determination to dig deeper was reflected in flipping the switch to rally from at least 11 points down to win seven of their first 19 games. A flat-out unbeatable aura on the road has been created with this 10-0 record away from Staples Center. No one can erase those accomplishments, and those performances have already changed many minds.

“We know what our standard is,” said Danny Green, offering the perspective of a two-time NBA champion, “and we’ve got to continue to set and keep that standard—and continue not to be satisfied or happy with what we’ve done. It’s still early in the season.”
Make no mistake, though: The longer the winning continues, the more widespread the repercussions of that winning.

It’s not just a domino effect.

For these Lakers, it’s a domination effect.