- Tip Off: 7:30 p.m.
- Television: CSN-BA
- Points: Kobe Bryant, 27.2 PPG
- Rebounds: Dwight Howard, 9.6 RPG
- Assists: Steve Nash (injured), 4.0 APG
- Blocks: Dwight Howard, 2.4 BPG
- Steals: Metta World Peace, 1.8 SPG
- Field goal percentage: Dwight Howard, 67.8% FG
- 3-point field goal percentage: Steve Blake, 43.8% 3PT FG
Scope the Opposition: Forum Blue and Gold.
Preview: The Golden State Warriors find themselves in unfamiliar territory as they sit close to the top of the Pacific division, while the Lakers find themselves at the bottom.
With Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and an injured Steve Nash on board, many thought they would need time to get acquainted to each other but that their talent would help them win a few games until they figured things out. Mind you, such has not been the case.
For all the talk about how the Lakers seem lost in this new offense that borrows principles from the Princeton and triple-post offense as well as the pick-and-roll, the Los Angeles Lakers currently boast the fifth best offensive efficiency in the NBA, scoring 104 points per 100 possessions. In addition, they are converting 47.5 percent of their field goals (fifth in the league), which tells you that the team can manufacture high percentage shots. So what gives?
This is the part where the lack of familiarity comes into play, as players have not yet developed a good sense of what to expect from their teammates.
The purple and gold are a low post oriented team, that looks to get the ball down on the block to either Howard, Gasol or Bryant depending on the matchups and then take advantage of them. The talents the team occupies allows them to score 47.6 points in the paint per game (fourth in the association) and it also helps them generate 32.6 free throw attempts per game (tops in the NBA); but the lack of synergy with the teammates around the player occupying the post often gets them to cough the ball up.
For instance, waiting for the post player to get inside position and feeding the ball can be problematic because the Lakers often have poor spacing on the court. Thus, it’s easier for defenses to anticipate and clog the passing lanes when players try to feed the ball or when the ball has already gone to the interior and the defense acts as if it’s coming to double team but does not. Kobe Bryant has seen this for years and thus is better equipped to deal with it when he is posting up, but Howard has struggled with it a just a bit, especially when ignoring the extra attention and going to the rim where opponents are swiping the ball away from him.
In the case of Howard, his diminished explosiveness is giving him fits because he isn’t getting to the rim as fast as he used to and isn’t elevating quickly, which gives opponents opportunities to go after the ball. In addition, the Lakers do not do a lot of cutting off the ball, which also complicates things for them offensively in terms of beating defenses. Add it all up together and the purple and gold are coughing the ball up 18.6 times per game (28th in the association).
With that said, it is still a punishing offense that will take advantage of their big men as well as defensive switches. Should Kobe Bryant or Metta World Peace get defended by a smaller player, they will immediately go to the block and punish him there.
Los Angeles is a decent 3-point shooting team, converting 34.8 percent of their looks from downtown (15th in the NBA), but defenses don’t necessarily respect their shooting ability. Thus, defenders sag into the paint to prevent the interior pass and even purposely avoid closing out too hard to entice shooters to take the open shot as opposed to driving it to the rim. Kobe Bryant has been shooting the ball exceptionally well so far this season and thus doesn’t necessarily get as many open looks as some of the roles players, but he still has the ability to break down defenses off the dribble especially with the way he’s been shooting ball this season. If the Lakers ever figure things out on offense, watch out.
On the other side of the ball, Mike Brown’s group has struggled. The Lakers sport a defensive efficiency of 103 (22nd in the NBA) and yield 44.7 percent shooting from the field (20th in the league).
Dwight Howard has been good defensively so far this season, but he hasn’t been the Defensive Player of the Year of recent seasons. He can rebound his area and also does a good job of contesting shots without fouling but where he has been exposed so far is in his lack of lateral quickness. Indeed, other than Metta World Peace — and even he’s slipped some — the Lakers are devoid of good perimeter defenders, and thus they are easily taken out of the equation in the pick-and-roll.
This used to be where Howard erased advantages for opponents because of his speed, quickness and understanding of defensive angles; but because he still is not yet where he once was physically, he cannot cover as much ground as he used, and opponents are taking note.
Teams now have an easier time of getting a good shot out of the pick-and-roll when Howard is involved because he is retreating to the paint to protect the basket. Consequently, ball-handlers are taking the open jumper, or driving into the lane with the hope of beating D12 off the dribble to get to the rim. This was once considered ludicrous, but now it’s an opportunity that can provide good results.
On side pick-and-rolls, the Lakers oversell defensively by shifting their defenders in a position to help on traps; but this makes them extremely vulnerable against good passers when the big man chooses to slip the screen.
With Howard, L.A. will vary their coverage depending on the spot on the floor, but with Gasol, it seems that Mike Brown prefers to have him trap for fear that ball-handlers can turn the corner on him. This strategy might benefit the Warriors because this would mean that David Lee would often be left unattended as Gasol traps, which in turn could lead to him getting the ball and attacking the rim or feeding a cutting teammate for an easy score; much like he did last season when playing with Monta Ellis.
Ultimately, the Lakers should be successful offensively against the Dubs because with Andrew Bogut out of the lineup and Dwight Howard and company drawing fouls on the interior, it will mean that Festus Ezeli, Carl Landry and Andris Biendrins will be called upon early to protect the paint, and that will surely be an advantage for Los Angeles.
On the flip side though, the Lakers’ inability to hold on to the ball might result in several transition opportunities for the Warriors, an area where the Lake Show has struggled so far this season.
Golden State Warriors notes: Andrew Bogut is out for the next 7-to-10 days.
Los Angeles Lakers notes: Steve Nash is currently injured.
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