Lakers/Mavericks: When You Don’t Play Good Defense, This Is What Happens

Darius Soriano —  January 19, 2011

There will be games when scoring will be enough. Tonight, against the Mavs, was not one of those games. What the Lakers needed was defensive effort and the stops that follow but instead they tried to rely on their offense to carry the way and they fell way short by the score 109-100.

Early on, it didn’t look like the Lakers would be forced to pay for their poor defensive effort. Actually, scratch that. Early on, I thought the Lakers approach of leaving certain players open on defense wasn’t going to hurt them. Intent to ensure that Dirk didn’t find his offensive rhythm, the Lakers forced Jason Kidd, DeShawn Stevenson, and Sasha Pavlovic to shoot open jumpers and early on only Pavlovic made them pay. Neither Kidd or Stevenson could make open shots and the Lakers happily took the ball the other way to execute their offense quite well.  The ball went inside to Gasol and Bynum, Fisher and Kobe were making excellent choices with the ball and the team was scoring pretty easily. By the time the first quarter ended, the Lakers were up 31-23 and it looked they were well on their way to a win.

Then, the rest of the game happened and Dallas turned the game around by attacking the Lakers’ weaknesses. Once Dallas went to their bench they increased the pace of the game and they started to find the range on their jumpers. Led by notorious Laker Killer Jason Terry, the Mavs got into the open court and created open looks for their shooters by running the Lakers defense into the paint and then passing back out to shooters at the three point line.

But, it wasn’t just in the open court that the Mavs were doing damage. In the 3rd quarter, the Mavs pick and roll heavy attack started to further break down the Lakers defense. With Jason Kidd quarterbacking the Mavs’ attack, they got one good look after another and turned the game from a back and forth contest where the Lakers were completely in the game to a one sided affair that put the Lakers in a deep hole.

Whether the ageless point guard was deciding to shoot or create for one of his teammates, Kidd completely controlled the game action. He sank jumper after jumper of his own (making 8 of his 12 shots including 5 of his 8 three pointers for 21 points) and then used the Lakers closeouts (when they did close out) against them to set up his mates. The main beneficiary of Kidd’s passes was Shawn Marion who, like his former Suns teammate, had a throwback game showing off a variety floaters, half hooks, and set jumpers.  Marion finished the night with a 22 point effort of his own (on only 13 shots) and hit several shots to curb a potential Lakers’ run.

The Lakers did do a variety of things right tonight, but when a team’s success is limited to only one side of the ball it’s often not going to be enough to win. The Lakers found that out first hand tonight as they only had a couple of bad stretches on offense but found nearly a full game of poor defense too much to compensate for.  Furthermore, even when the Lakers did start to tighten up their defense, it was too late as the Mavs had already found their rhythm and just hit the contested shots too. Kidd, Terry, and Marion were all perfect examples of this as they buried some tough shots down the stretch that ultimately did the Lakers in.

Looking at this game from a glass half full approach, the Lakers can use this game as a teaching tool. By reviewing the film to this game they can see where their defensive rotations were bad and hopefully get to the root cause of some of their miscommunication on that side of the ball. Offensively, they can also take some positives away as the Mavs’ zone did little to disrupt the Lakers O and both Kobe and Gasol were able to have good games by getting good shots in the teeth of the defense. So, despite the loss there are things to build on. Too bad one of those growth points isn’t a victory.

Darius Soriano

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18 responses to Lakers/Mavericks: When You Don’t Play Good Defense, This Is What Happens

  1. Good recap Darius. I am sorry if my posts offended you, I was really pissed. The truth is, I want to believe in this team again, and a win tonight may have made me believe a little more. However, when this team keeps losing every statement game they play, it is hard for me to keep faith. What can I say, I am a spoiled fan like we all are, I probably shouldn’t complain about a team that is still one of the best in the league even though they may not be the best no more.

  2. Joe,

    As Kobe recently said, there’s no such thing as a statement game no more for this Lakers team. For better or worth…

  3. Yes, there is no excuse for losing a game when the team is shooting 53%!!! Obviously n defense.

  4. So are the Lakers suddenly worse individual players or are they executing poorly?

    The flaws seem to be more execution related, so let’s just believe: “Lakers have a switch, Lakers have a switch, Lakers have a switch…”

  5. I love how vocal Bynum is:

    (What happened to your team’s defense in the 2nd half tonight?) – “We were just being lazy. I’m quite sure if you look at the tape everybody is kind of stagnant and just staying still. And we didn’t cut off the baseline, and had guys rotating, we were just playing lazy [defense].”

    (You guys haven’t beaten a lot of good teams on the road; how do you correct that?) – “Be more focused and really just play basketball. Defensively we’re just being flat footed.”

    (Is it especially disappointing because Dallas had been struggling?) – “It’s more disappointing that we keep getting up by 10 and then we just say ‘OK the offense is going good, we don’t have to play [defense].’ And then we turned the ball over a lot to start the 3rd quarter and they just made us pay”

    He really changed this season in that regard. I hope we’re watching a birth of a future team leader…

  6. Without all the turnovers in the 2nd half they may have been in a position to win this game.

    Pau took the 2nd half off on both sides of the floor.

  7. I like your analysis Darius but I really feel like this team is particularly awful in guarding teams that can shoot the 3, and quite frankly I haven’t seen a big enough improvement from earlier in the season to now to convince me that they will be fine in that area come playoff time. All season long it’s like they have dared teams to shoot jumpers against them, and the teams that shoot well win the games and the teams that don’t end up losing. Look at the Thunder game, the Lakers went in with the game plan of clogging the paint and other than Durant they do not have an outside shooter so they lost. I really feel the team needs to have a more athletic lineup to consistently guard teams well in that area. Blake, Brown or Barnes when he returns, Kobe, Lamar, and Pau really seems like the best option especially against a team like Miami or the Spurs. But by doing that we effectively lose our best defensive post player, it really puts the team at a dilemma. BTW I would really like to see someone other than Luke get clock because other than an occasional good pass the guy is a liability on both ends of the floor, he is the weakest link on the team.

  8. Is it just me or are the Lakers switching every pick? I recall in past seasons where the Lakers would switch any pick in which the two oppositing players were no more than one position apart (i.e. SG picks PG or SF then switch, if SG picks PF or C then hedge and recover).

    This year it seems that the Lakers are switching everything on every play and it makes it very easy for the opposition to dictate match-ups. Gasol was doing an great job on Dirk so rather than feeding Dirk and letting him go one-on-one with limited success, instead they set a pick so that the Lakers will switch and have Fisher gaurding Dirk. Sure enough that mismatch forces a double (typically Kobe or Ron) and Dirk kicks the ball out to the open peremeter player where Dallas then swings the ball around until they find an open player that the Lakers aren’t able to rotate and close out one… bingo… another 3 pointer!

    All of this was set up because for some reason the Lakers think that switching Fisher onto Dirk (and Gasol onto Terry) is better than having Gasol hedge the pick, allow Fisher to recover on his man, and then Gasol releases to again cover Dirk.

    The Lakers won’t win many games if 50% of the possessions end up in the opposition running a pick so that their best player (regardless of position) is going to be guarded by Derek Fisher.

  9. 7. I agree. I don’t like the switching on every pick defensive plan. There were too many cross-matches that weren’t in the Lakers’ favor because of this defense.

    I think we really missed someone like Matt Barnes last night. Luke’s atrocious appearance and shot selection was proof positive of this. We needed some perimeter players to crash the boards like Barnes. He is sorely missed.

    Also, what’s up with our defense against the 3 pointer this year? That was our strong suit last year but it seems like we are getting pummeled by 3s, which is bad news against the Nuggets who launch 3s at a prodigious rate.

    I really don’t have any more answers or insights about this team. They remind me of my college and law school days when I would just saunter through the regular semester, only to try to amp it up significantly during the post season (exam) in a futile effort to exorcise my poor study habits. The Lakers have successfully passed their test the past two years, but I’m getting a bit nervous about how we are gearing up for a difficult postseason.

  10. Lakers’ OPP 3P fg%::

    2010 .328
    2011 .340

    Lakers’ OPP OVERALL fg%

    2010 .446
    2011 .437

    I think the 3P% is probably just statistical regression.

    I think one problem people are having is excessive expectations, based on the championships and the Blake and Barnes acquisitions. This is not a superteam. Last year the Lakers won 57 games, and a few of those, as we all recall, were on Kobe buzzerbeaters. This year, playing an easy 1st half schedule, they went 30-11. Based on the schedule getting tougher, it is reasonable to assume that they will win about 55 games, which sounds about right to me, given the depth of the West.

    As to last night, two points:

    1. Dallas was due after losing six in a row, and they needed/wanted that game.
    2. As noted, this was a game where Barnes would have mattered. Barnes is in some respects basically a poor man’s Shawn Marion, is the kind of guy who could play Marion tough, and Marion really hurt the Lakers last night.

    Also, I have said this several times, but it bears repeating: the playoff run last year was helped along by favorable matchups. OKC has not improved their bigs, Durant has trouble with Artest, and so even with Westbrook going off, the Lakers beat them yet again. Dallas OTOH (who the Lakers did not play in last year’s post-season) has some pieces that match up well the Lakers–Dirk, Terry, and w/o Barnes, Marion. People here sometimes seem to forget that there are two teams on the floor. That is OK–this is a Lakers’ blog after all–but we should remember the other guys can play, too.

    IOW, yes, the team needs to to work on defensive rotations and I am sure Phil and Hamblen are talking about that in the video room and at practice. But if people step back from all the hoopla/emotion that surrounds this team, I think they will see that the team is what it is at this point. The guys I can see who can do better are Gasol, who has not seemed right since that bizarre stretch when Phil played him 45 minutes a night, Also Blake, who is not creating his own shot/converting (although he did score 7 last night) but has worse turnover numbers than Farmar did:

    2010 Farmar: USG 18.2 TO% 16.7
    2011 Blake: USG 12.2 TO% 19.8

    Finally, a lot this year rests on Andrew. As many have said, if he gets hurt again and goes into the playoffs limping or is not there at all, the team cannot get it done this time. The competition is better.

  11. Very upset about this game. The Lakers are very bad at guarding the 3. Not sure what the statistics show, but from watching the games it is obvious that they do not do a good job of closing out on shooters. I alluded to this in the last Phoenix Suns game where we left them open as well, but they just missed shots. I thought we fixed the problem because against the Knicks they guarded the 3 point line very well. What happened?

    Granted, some of Dallas’ shots were a little hard to believe. Jason Terry and Jason Kidd played out of their minds, but we sure didn’t help in stopping them. And I’ve been reading Kobe’s comments lately about their defensive inconsistencies. He really has to look in the mirror because his defense has been very poor this season. He goes for every steal and his man loses him often.

    Can someone tell me how good this team is? Are we as good as our record shows?

  12. 2, you can say it is not a statement game, but it is a game that has more meaning than against a non playoff contending team. If I were the Lakers, I wouldnt want to let these good teams to keep on beating us and give them more confidence against us going into the playoffs. I mean if the Lakers believe they are still far and away the best team and can just flip the switch like they did last year come playoff time, they will lose, they need to let go of the arrogance.

  13. Joe,

    I doubt they think they are the best, most of them at least. It’s just they are more concerned with their own play right now than what the opposition is. Unless it’s Celtics, maybe (we’ll see that soon enough).

    And about three point defense, Lakers are 5th best team in opposing team 3pt% (http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/stats/byteam?&cat1=Total&cat2=opponent&conference=NBA&year=season_2010&sort=330), holding them to 34.0%. Terry and Kidd both had a great shooting night against us, but there were only a few nights this season like this, where both of them shot well and much. So if it’s the standard 3pt Lakers defense, then Terry and Kidd should’ve had more nights like this, because there are quiet a lot of teams with worst 3pt defense. I think it’s a combination of Lakers turnovers and laziness to close-out on shooters and Terry & Kidd catching fire.

  14. I recently got Tivo thinking I’d never miss a game (especially the early starts on the east coast). Guess what? I’ve stopped recording the games period. This is simply not a fun team to watch right now. Kobe, while still an amazing talent, has fallen off a bit. Pao seems to have lost his edge (he was out to prove something after the Boston debacle of 2 years ago). And Phil doesn’t seem to instill the kind of passion necessary to turn things around. Now I’ve been watching this team for too long to give up just yet, but clearly the league has improved and therefore home court REALLY will matter in the playoffs. Our boys need to turn it around soon.

  15. A statement game during the regular season for a two time defending champion is an oxymoron. LA knows what type of effort it takes to win in the playoffs. You cant judge whats happening now will be what the future holds. Dont get me wrong the team is frustrating to watch, but at the same time things can change at anytime.

  16. Regarding the Lakers 3-point defense, they are the 5th best in percentage but are the 5th worst in opponents made 3′s and allowed the most 3 point shot attempts in the league. That goes to the point being made by many others that the lakers struggle against good 3 point shooting teams. If the Lakers are going to give up nothing but wide open threes, teams with good shooters will make them.

    Someone also made a good point about the lakers switching literally on every screen. That has led to a lot of mismatches, putting everyone in a “help” position which has led to everyone ball watching and losing sight of the person they are guarding. Which has normally led to penetration and kick outs to open shooters.

    The perimeter players have to do a better job of fighting over screens on good shooters and the bigs have to do a better job of stepping up on the p&r against guys that are looking to get to the basket.

  17. Joel B.,

    Yes, the Lakers dare other teams to beat them from perimeter, not from inside, and most nights it’s working. It’s hard, I think, to change that strategy from game to game in the regular season. In the playoffs, though, they are capable of making adjustments (see Phoenix series).

    And again, I think Lakers defends 3pt shots pretty well in the halfcourt, it’s turnovers and transition defense that get them in trouble. And, as Bynum recently said, if you lose a ball in your backcourt offense while two or three of your guys near the baseline, there’s not much you can do.

    Also there was a point that we’ve got lucky with our playoffs opponents. I tend to disagree: athletic Thunder was one of the hottest teams in the West at the end of the season and was killing us in transition with their speed and athleticism; Utah is always tough, though they were undersized; and Phoenix is shooting 3pt shots as good as anybody and runs in transition as good as anybody – exploiting our two major flaws.

  18. @ 18

    I don’t mean “lucky” (didn’t use that word anyway) in a perjorative sense; every team gets breaks and the winner cashes them in. But at playoff time, matchups matter and as we have seen/said a million times, the Lakers have the most trouble with teams that have multiple bigs, that can slow down Pau, Andrew and Lamar, head-up, thus turning Kobe into the dreaded “volume jump shooter.” ALL good point guards run up numbers on the Lakers; the key is whether the Lakers’ overall package overrides that.

    Thunder: best big is Serge Ibaka
    Jazz: best big was Carlos Boozer; Kirilenko and Okur were injured
    Suns: best big was Amare Stoudemire; no elite wing defender

    Would you have rather played those three teams or Portland, Dallas, and San Antonio? I would take the first three any time, and the results showed why.

    Boston, which had size and someone to bother Kobe, took the Lakers to 7, holding them under 100 six times and under 90 four times.

    Looking ahead, SA and DAL are the biggest matchup issues in the conference this year. One thing I will watch in the next SA game is how the Lakers play DaJuan Blair. Physical, active, thick, short 4s (Leon Powe, Glen Davis, Blair) are often an issue for the Lakers. They need to go at Blair with either Bynum or Gasol when they have the ball.