For One Game, Not The City of Stars

J.M. Poulard —  December 26, 2011

The Los Angeles Lakers were defeated by the Chicago Bulls in their home opener on Christmas day. As previously covered, the purple and gold’s struggles against the Bulls came as a result of their sloppy play as well as the inability to alleviate some of the scoring burden from Kobe’s shoulders.

But if we have a bit more of an in-depth look at the game, these facts become all the more painfully obvious.

In the match-up against Chicago, Kobe Bryant seemed to be able to get his points in a variety of ways without the Bulls’ defense really being able to challenge his shots. Part of that stemmed from the fact that Mike Brown had his superstar catch the ball in a multitude of areas on the move, which made it tough for the defense to key in on the star guard.

Where the Lakers got themselves in trouble, mind you, was when the ball started to stick in Bryant’s hands (a la Melo) as he tried to isolate his defender.

Indeed, according to Synergy Sports, the Black Mamba was three-for-11 in isolation situations against Chicago and eight-for-12 in every other scenario (pick-and-roll, post ups, coming off screens, hands offs, cuts and transition).

Also, Kobe finished the game yesterday with eight turnovers, with 50 percent of them coming in the pick-and-roll and two more in isolation situations.

This poses an intriguing conundrum for Mike Brown: going back to the preseason, the star guard has been unable to hold on to the ball when faced with two defenders, but then again Kobe has been efficient shooting-wise in the screen-and-roll action.

The Lakers obviously want to avoid turning the ball over, which Bryant does in isolation situations; but then again so far his shooting numbers are less than stellar when he tries to attack single-coverage off the dribble for the time being.

Nonetheless, Kobe did a good job of getting his points against the Bulls and should be able to figure out how to be more efficient with the basketball heading into the game with the Sacramento Kings tonight. Mind you, it may be all for naught if the team’s current starting power forward/center does not bring better production.

Pau Gasol is a gifted big man with the ability to score on the block with either hand but he can also shoot the perimeter jumper as well as take his man off the dribble. He presents a combination of skills that are just too tough to handle for most opponents. And yet, against the Bulls, Pau was decent when in fact he should have been at least good.

Have a look at Gasol’s field goal attempts per game according to shot location, as compiled by Hoopdata for last season:

Shot Location

FGAs per game

At the rim

4.5

3-9 feet

4.1

10-15 feet

2.3

16-23 feet

2.8

3-pointers

0.0*

Gasol shot three 3-pointers last season, which translated in 0.03 attempts per game.

Now have a look at Pau’s shot attempts against Chicago on Christmas day:

Shot Location

FGM

FGA

At the rim

2

2

3-9 feet

3

4

10-15 feet

1

3

16-23 feet

0

3

3-pointers

0

2

The Bulls are one of, if not the best defensive team in the league. And consequently, it stands to reason that they would be able to vary their schemes and also send the tall and physical Joakim Noah after the Spaniard.

However, it would be one thing if the former Grizzly was trying to score over the Bulls defenders in the paint and kept missing because of the tough defense; but instead Pau settled for a lot of outside jumpers where he was completely unsuccessful as evidenced by his one-for-eight shooting from beyond 10 feet.

For more data on Gasol’s shooting, let’s turn to Synergy Sports. Against the Bulls, Pau converted half or more of his shots in post ups, offensive rebounds, cuts and coming off of screens. But in his field goal attempts as the pick-and-roll man, isolations and spot ups, he was a mere one-for-six from the field.

Clearly, the Lakers have to play better as a team in order to get wins, but there is no denying that it all starts with the stars. They are relied upon to set the tone and more often than not bail out their teammates out of tough situations. Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol are terrific players in their own right and if Mike Brown is able to correct these issues with his star players, the offense should run more smoothly and the Lakers should have the look and feel of an elite team.

One game down, 65 to go…

J.M. Poulard

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14 responses to For One Game, Not The City of Stars

  1. The Bulls won by a bad defensive lapse on the Lakers’ part. Anyways, no use crying over spilled milk, right? 65 more games to go.

  2. Lakers are already winning, then veterans come in and gave the game in the end. Three games in a row where Lakers are competitive for opening salvo and not a good closer.

    Can we put this in reverse, put the energy players who have been giving us leads at the start and reduce the ball handling of the veterans who are being doubled and tripled in defense. Lakers offense is being telegraphed, even the grandmother of Chick knew what would happen in the end. We saw this in the Clippers games, then replayed again with Bulls. I think we lost games in absence of court/lead management, how did the Bulls outscored the Lakers in the last three minutes? Because they relied too much on the old habits of going to Kobe, Kobe & Kobe? Where is the new strategy of using Kobe and Gasol as merely decoys?

  3. Mike Brown has seen this movie with Lebron and knows how it ends. With more freedom with the Lakers I suspect he will be much more firm in how he wants all his players to contribute.

  4. Missing four free throws in the closing minutes will kill any team. We should expect better from Pau, and hopefully McRoberts as the season goes on.

  5. “Indeed, according to Synergy Sports, the Black Mamba was three-for-11 in isolation situations against Chicago and eight-for-12 in every other scenario (pick-and-roll, post ups, coming off screens, hands offs, cuts and transition).

    Also, Kobe finished the game yesterday with eight turnovers, with 50 percent of them coming in the pick-and-roll and two more in isolation situations.”

    It has been clear for a while why the Lakers need a better point guard for defensive purposes, but the above section of J.M.’s post illustrates why an upgrade at PG is necessary on offense, too. Kobe is currently the only Laker who can create shots–for himself or for others. At this stage of his career, his age and his accumulation of hand injuries makes reliance on Kobe as the team’s sole playmaker a recipe for disaster.

    Kobe is still one of the top 10 players in the league, but he is not an elite ball handler any more, and it is unfair to expect any more of a guy with multiple torn ligaments in his fingers & wrist of his dominant hand. Hopefully, the coach will see this and will allow the rookie Morris more action at the lead guard spot, because in its current form, Morris is the only other Laker who can effectively handle the ball and create open looks for teammates….

  6. Why did Brown call time and not take the ball out full court so they can’t get trapped. They were ahead not down. Why did he put the worst defensive guard Fisher back in the game to guard Rose. Why does he keep playing Metta World Clown?

    Simple: he proved at Cleveland he can coach in practice but is clueless in game situations. His coaching lost that game annd if you can’t see that then you never played organized basketball.

  7. Smarter passing and playing with desire for 48 minutes will keep this team in almost every game. Bynum’s return will take a great deal of pressure off of Pau who is having trouble sustaining his effort. I used to envy Golden State having Troy Murphy’s stretch 4 abilities. I’m glad his skills didn’t fall off of cliff. McRoberts is a solid hustle guy with a seemingly good attitude.

    With Barnes on the bench the Lakers cuts were almost nonexistent. Kobe ran some good cuts but the rest of the team were far between those. A given, but I’d rather see Morris getting as many opportunities to grow the green off than Walton taking up space on the bench.

    Fisher’s passing angles and decisions have been terrible thus far. Also, team fundamentals: Meet the ball. Sac has some good young bigs on the offensive side of the ball. Pau will need to use his height advantage against these lesser defenders who were draping him yesterday. Hopefully, team play will prevail and get the 1st W of the season.

  8. sort of off-topic, but it dawned on me yesterday just how much the loss of tyson chandler is going to impact the mavericks on the *offensive* end.

    if the mavericks can’t register stops and rebound defensively like they did last year, they won’t be able to score in transition as frequently. no more transition 3s for terry, kidd, dirk. they’re not going to be as efficient or versatile this year.

    tangentially, if the lakers can improve defensively, they are equipped with guys like blake, goudelock, and murphy to bomb teams with transition 3s. if they can crash the offensive glass, there will be even more opportunities for these types of players–guys who can’t create for themselves–to hit open jumpers.

    now i regret drafting kidd for my fantasy team and will try to trade him.

  9. Yes, great post on Gasol’s shooting. I also noticed that for some reason he was taking jumpers, at some distance from the hoop, where he should have been trying to score in the paint. This is what we have our new shooters for, and tonight’s game will hopefully show that change.

  10. Ken,

    Fisher wasn’t in the game to guard Rose. He was in to shoot FTs as the Lakers had possession and needed to ice the game.

  11. I recall coach Brown talking about how Gasol has a 3 point shot and was beating some of the 3 point shooters at practice. I would guess he may have given Gasol more allowance to shoot the three than Jackson ever did.

  12. I realize I am a post behind here – but just wanted to say this was an outstanding post J M. I think you nailed it in diagnosing the crux of the problem.

  13. Joel. How was Fisher going to shoot free throws against Chicago when Kobe will never pass the ball!