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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