Looking At Losing Streak

Kurt —  January 28, 2008

Some thoughts on the three game losing streak and life without Bynum, and about the Lakers missing some of the easy baskets they used to get.

• The last three games have been at a slower pace than the Lakers like — each of them at 91 possessions a game, 5 fewer than the Laker average. And in those games, particularly against the Cavs, the Lakers looked good in transition off Cavs misses (some pretty passes and lay-ups in the first have quickly come to mind). Without Bynum the Lakers need those easy points. And the break is triggered by good defense.

While we’re talking break, before Bynum got hurt the Lakers got a lot of points on what one of my old coach called the “secondary break” — getting points from the late trailers on the break or recognizing that the defense had to pick up different men and exploiting a mismatch. Early in the third quarter the Lakers got a couple of those but they need to do better at this more consistently. Bynum, in transition, used to trail the play down and set the high pick for Kobe (or sometimes Fisher) and when Bynum rolled to the basket hard the Lakers got a lot of great looks and fun dunks. Those are gone, Kwame and Turiaf can’t make those plays, and the Lakers miss those points.

• It’s all about the defense — on the season the Lakers have a defensive rating of 106 (points surrendered per 100 possessions) but in the last six games five teams have bested that number. (Ironically, the only team that didn’t was the Suns.) Shooting is part of that, the Lakers allow opposing teams to shoot 48% (eFG%) for the season and four of the last six games since Bynum went down a team bested that percentage (and the Cavs were just barely behind it), But also in the last three games the Lakers have created fewer turnovers (which refers back to the transition points from the point above).

• As has been obvious; the Lakers offense also has been slowed without Drew (and Radmaovic). The Lakers have fallen below their season average of 111.9 (points per 100 possessions) in five of their last six games. That includes a 104.4 against the Cavs. Again shooting is part of it but what the Lakers are missing are some of those easy put back baskets — on the season the team has grabbed 26.3% of its misses, but without Bynum’s long arms that fell to 21.4% against the Cavs, 15.2% against the Mavs.

Some other thoughts from the Cavs game.

• Games between big stars like Kobe and LeBron often come down to which guy has the better supporting cast. Yesterday, the Lakers didn’t have anyone as good as Larry Hughes. And that hurts to say.

• Phil Jackson got some heat in the comments for inserting Kwame for Luke with about 8 minutes to go and the Lakers up nine — when the Cavs started their late run. I think Phil did it to match up with Big Z, but Kwame was horrible for those seconds he was in there. However, when he came out, the Cavs scored the next two trips down because Odom chased the ball and let Larry Hughes run alone to the basket, then because Hughes pushed the pace and Turiaf was the only guy to try to pick him up, and he did it out above the free throw line and couldn’t keep up with him. Those are not on Kwame or Phil, that’s bad team defense.

• Speaking of bad team defense: :Late in the game, Lamar Odom was way late to a pick-and-roll, let alone trying to show out, that gave LeBron a lay-up. Next trip down Turiaf was slow to switch on Larry Hughes, another basket. However, the Cavs defense at the end did a good job of trying to take the ball out of Kobe’s hands. Commenter Bill Bridges said it well:

A striking difference in the ball game was how the two teams chose to defend the stars with the game on the line. The CAVS doubled Kobe high immediately to get the ball out his hands (resulting in a weak, lazy pass back to Luke with LJ running at him). Kobe checked LeBron one-on-one. As sad it is to write (as it was to watch), it was painfully easy for LeBron to look Kobe off to his left, take one dribble to his right and get a very good look at the hoop. I think LeBron would get this look against any one defender in the history of the league (that’s why no team would cover him one-on-one).