Yesterday, Darius kicked off our two-part first round playoff preview: When the Lakers Have the Ball. Today, we’ll be taking a look at what the Lakers can do on the other side of the floor.
In the first three meetings between the Lakers and the Hornets, we pretty much knew what we were going to see in their offensive sets — a lot of 1-4 pick and rolls between Chris Paul and David West. There hasn’t been a point in Chris Paul’s career when he wasn’t one of the league’s elite point guards when healthy. He’s been very effective in both scoring in pick and roll situations and finding open men as they became available. West, on the other hand, was one of the league’s best in terms of the pick and pop. Before West was injured, he was shooting right around 45 percent on mid-range jumpers. Now, the Hornets are without West, but still run the pick and roll rather effectively.
Since David West went down, Carl Landry has come in and played well, but he doesn’t have the same strengths as West had. In this video, we’ll see the Hornets run the same exact set that they would have normally run with West in the game. We see a 2-4 P&R between Marco Belinelli and Landry. Landry scores on this one, but it’s a shot that the Lakers will be more than happy to give up. Notice, first, how Ron Artest fights through the screen, going over it instead of underneath. This tactic is much more important when Paul is handling the ball (more on that later), but it takes away a directional choice from the ball handler and reduces the chances of a re-screen. Secondly, you’ll notice Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant sliding over keeping the ball handler out of the paint, with Pau close enough to contest any jumper taken right off of the screen, but far enough to give Ron Artest enough room to slide back between Belinelli and the hoop and enough time to recover back to his man.
Again, Landry makes this one, but the shot location stats over at HoopData suggest that the Lakers will allow Landry to continue to take that jump shot. On jumpers between 3-9 feet, West shot 45 percent while Landry shoots 44.6 percent. Between 10-15 feet West shot 44 percent, 38.1 for Landry. On long twos, West shot 47.3 percent, whereas Landry only shoots 35.3 percent.
On this next clip, we see the kind of damage that Chris Paul can do to the Lakers if they don’t pay attention to detail. The Lakers do almost everything wrong in defending this one, and it leads to an easy layup. First, Pau makes his decision on what side to hedge on before Chris Paul does. Second, Derek Fisher lets Chris Paul reverse and penetrate to his right. Third, Kobe has a chance to step in and stop the penetration at the free throw line, but slides out of the way. Fourth, Lamar Odom is late to slide over and contest the shot. Darius has more on this:
A key to slowing Paul in the P&R is to keep him away from the middle of the floor and preferably to his left hand. Before his knee injury, Paul would get into the lane and score going both left and right. However, this year he seems much more active getting to the rim when driving middle to his right hand and relying much more on his step back jumper when going to his left. If the Lakers can effectively limit Paul’s ability to drive right, it should also go a long way in reducing his scoring punch.
On this last video, we see the Lakers doing a better job in defending the screen and roll. Again, we see Derek Fisher going over the screen, forcing Paul to go to his left. Pau shows enough to contest the jumper and Kobe leaves Trevor Ariza open on the perimeter and slides down on the cutter to prevent a wide open look down low. More Darius:
You see that on only one of the sets did a player get all the way to the basket and that was when Paul went away from the screen and beat Fisher back to the middle of the floor. And to me, that’s the key with slowing down this action from the Hornets. If the Lakers can successfully keep Paul out of the paint and make the him a jump shooter coming off the P&R, that’s half the battle. Even though Paul shoots a very good 45% from 16-23 feet, by making him pull up for that jumper with a big man contesting, the Lakers will drastically reduce his effectiveness as a scorer. Understand that Paul will try to draw contact by rubbing tight off the screen and then working back towards the hedging big man in order to draw a foul, but if the Lakers are smart in laying back so that they can effectively keep Paul in front of them while still staying in position to challenge his jumper, I think they’ll be in good shape.
Zephid had a few more words on Chris Paul in the P&R:
From the 2nd and 3rd sets, you can see that Paul is probably more dangerous going away from the pick, since going over the pick will usually lead to a contested jumper over the long arms of Bynum, Gasol, or Odom. When Paul went away from the pick, he easily beat Derek Fisher and got into the lane for an easy score. Lamar probably should’ve helped more, but giving up a bucket would’ve been better than giving up a cheap And1.
Finally, statistics from Synergy tell us 20 percent of the Hornets offense ends with a spot up jump shot, with a large percentage of them likely coming out of the screen and roll. This is a part of the Lakers game that should get secondary attention from the Lakers as they aren’t a very good jump shooting team. As Darius mentioned, Chris Paul shoots a nice 45 percent on mid-range jump shots. Darius mentioned to me in an e-mail that the Hornets only make 5.4 threes per game (22nd in the NBA), which seems to suggest that if the Lakers continue to help off of shooters in pick and roll situations, they won’t have to pay a heavy price to deadly three-point shooting. Kurt also added this:
The Lakers, as I imagine they do to a lot of teams, force the Hornets to shoot more threes than they normally do, but the Hornets only hit 32.7 percent of them in the four games. The Hornets really struggled out on the arc and were more average on the corner three.
Overall, the Lakers did a great job defensively in the four games against the Hornets this season, they only shot 40 percent in those games. It’s not a secret, the Hornets offense goes as Chris Paul does. Instead of forcing him to the middle like the Lakers do for most opponents, they’re going to want to force him to his left and force him to take mid range jumpers. The Lakers also need to be concerned with Landry and his ability to finish around the rim, where he finishes the play about 75 percent of the time. I do not expect this to be a long series, but doing the little things, paying attention to detail and closing defensive possessions by keeping the Hornets off of the offensive glass can ensure that this series doesn’t stretch out longer than it needs to be.