It’s the Offense, Stupid

Kurt —  February 15, 2007

I’ll be the first to admit that it’s been hard to watch the Laker defense of late, for example the Knicks’ guards seemed to get into the paint at will and the defensive rotations have been horrible. And, in the last 10 games, the Lakers have given up an average of 12.5 offensive rebounds a game, just to compound their problems.

I thought the recent Laker slump (4-10 in their last 14) was due to the defense. But that’s one of the reasons I also like statistics — they can point out where your perceptions are off.

In the last 10 games, the Lakers defensive rating has been 108.2 (points per 100 opponent possessions). That’s actually one point per 100 better than they have been all season. Add to that the fact the Lakers played some weak offensive teams of late and I think what this means really is that the defense is playing about how it has all season. (Which is not good, that 108.2 would still have the Lakers 17th in the league for the season, rather than the current 22nd. Those kinds of numbers do not suggest a first-round playoff win.)

However, the bigger problem of late is the offense — the Lakers have an offensive rating of 106.4 (points per 100 possessions) in the past 10 games. That is 3.3 points per 100 off their full-season pace. Or, look at it this way — for the season the Lakers are the 7th best offensive team in the NBA, but in the 10 gamest they would be 22nd.

And it comes down to the central offensive ingredient — shooting. The Lakers are shooting 48% (eFG%) in the last 10 games, well below the 51.2% they are shooting for the season. Kobe’s shooting percentage in the last 10 games is just a hair above his season average, but everyone around him — Odom, Smush, Bynum, Mo Evans, Cook — are way off their averages.

The Laker defense has been bad all season, but for much of the year the offense was bailing them out. Not lately. I doubt there is just one cause, it’s more a combination of missing Luke Walton, Lamar’s knee being weak and that sapping his confidence, the lack of fast breaks and some easy baskets, and just some guys in slumps.

Whatever the reasons, they need to snap out of it.


As for the Cavs tonight, here are a few notes and things to look for:

In the last 10 games, the Lakers are averaging 2 fewer possessions per game than they had been. As has been noted before by Rob on this blog, the Lakers have done better at higher tempos. Time to push the ball up the court.

Superstitious things that worry me: With All Starts dropping like flies, I’d like Kobe to get through this game healthy.

The Lakers catch a couple of breaks. First, this is the second game of a back to back for the Cavs, who lost by one point in Utah last night. Also, Zydrunas Ilgauskas will miss the game due to “personal reasons,” according to Mike Bresnahan at the LA Times. He didn’t play last night. That may free up Bynum to be more of a help defender.

The Lakers did a solid job last time not letting LeBron get to the basket too easily and forced him to be more of a mid-range shooter. Tonight they also need to do that to Anderson Varejao, who only shoots well close to the basket.

As for Aleksandar Pavlovic, well, he’s colder from the right side of the floor midrange. Better yet, just don’t let him shoot, the Lakers sagged off him a lot last game and paid for it.

Also, one of our regular readers here at FB&G will be stuck tonight, not able to use his season seats and not near a computer or television. If someone is going to the game tonight and can give him some calls with updates, send me an email and I’ll try to get you connected. Thanks.

And let’s hope those reports do not in any way involve what happened at the end of the last meeting between these two.