Lakers Struggle to Score, Spurs Take Advantage

Darius Soriano —  April 21, 2013

The reality of this series is apparent after the first game. The Lakers have a ton of fight in them and are willing to make the effort play in order to keep the game close. However, without Kobe Bryant and with a less than 100% Steve Nash, the team may struggle to score enough points for all those effort plays to matter.

The Lakers tried to feature the same post heavy attack that led them to victory over the Spurs just a week ago, but were less effective this time in making it work. The Spurs fronted, half fronted, and sagged off the wings to make post entries difficult. When the ball did go into the post, the Spurs showed the Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol the second defender almost instantly via dig-downs from the same side wing and from the top of the key. When the Lakers’ bigs put the ball on the floor, help would also come from the weak side. This all combined to gum up the Lakers’ offensive sets and leave the team searching for help from the perimeter in the form of made shots.

Help that, sadly, never consistently materialized. Here is the Lakers’ shot chart from the game:

Game 1 shot chart

As you can see, the Lakers were able to effectively score in the restricted area when they got the chance, making 68% of their shots at the rim. They were even able to hit a few shots from right around the FT line area (though still in the paint) when they got pushed back out to the dotted line.

But what they couldn’t do was hit the long jumpers that the Spurs were more than happy to surrender to them. Be it out of the P&R when the Spurs’ bigs would sag down to deny the roll man or simple jumpers off kick-out passes from the post, the Lakers couldn’t make the shots they needed to loosen up the defense. The result was a crowded lane that not only limited post up chances, but also erased the cutting lanes that the Lakers typically want to exploit when they feature their big men on the block.

It’s a shame the Lakers were so poor on offense because their defense was actually quite good for most of the game. Yes the Spurs were able to break the game open late by knocking down some three pointers after making the smart extra pass, but for the rest of day they struggled to penetrate the Lakers’ D and were left clanking the same mid-range jumpers the Lakers couldn’t knock down.

The Lakers shaded Tony Parker expertly on the P&R and funneled him towards help, leaving only the kick out pass to Duncan when he popped to the top of the key. Give Steve Blake a ton of credit in this match up as he did an excellent job of sticking on Parker’s hip and chasing him from behind so he could still contest his pull up jumper. With Parker somewhat under wraps, that left Duncan, Leonard, Green, and Neal left to carry the load — but from the mid-range and deep two part of the floor. These are the shots the Lakers don’t mind surrendering. In fact, their scheme of having Pau guard Duncan and Dwight be the first helper behind the hedge man was a great tactical move that ensured the Spurs would have trouble penetrating the paint, thus leaving them with only outside jumpers to sustain their offense.

The only problem was, Manu Ginobili found his rhythm within this defensive approach and was able to score efficiently and give the Spurs the cushion they needed. Manu’s 18 points on 13 shots (including 3 of 5 from downtown) punished the Lakers in an otherwise defensive stalemate. Without those baskets, who knows how well the Spurs manage this game. But, the fact is, Manu hit them and that’s that.

Heading into game two there are adjustments to be made, but the biggest one isn’t really tactical. The Lakers simply need to start to hit the open shots that are available to them. The Spurs are going to continue to try to take away the post, regardless if those shots fall or not. But if the shots do fall, the Lakers will find themselves ahead (or at least putting up the points they’ll need to not be down by double digits); they will find themselves forcing the Spurs to rethink their defensive strategy.

Of course the Spurs will likely go home thinking the same thing. If they only hit some of those open jumpers, they likely win this game by 20 rather than only 12. And, they have the luxury of looking at those missed shots with a 1-0 lead in the series. Ultimately though, this is why this series was always going to be hard. The Spurs have the wing talent to hit more of those shots than the Lakers do and that proved true in game one. If the Lakers are to even up the series on Wednesday, they’ll need to prove that even with the lesser talent, they can make those shots too.

Darius Soriano

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40 responses to Lakers Struggle to Score, Spurs Take Advantage

  1. Great analysis Darius, like i said in the other thread if we dont hit our outside shots we just dont have the points to win this series. Even being mildly succesful from outside would open our inside game wide enough to do some real damage but getting 12-33 from any backourt its just lethal to any team. I think on the defensive and hustle area we did pretty good. Im ok with the effort considering the how stacked the odds are against us.

  2. Hope Nash gets his rhythm and that his health improves. He, plus an outlier from Meeks, Blake, or Metta are going to be how the Lakers make this a series and perhaps win it.

    That said, I liked the effort. Nothing to really be mad about here. Grind it with passion, play smart, let the chips fall.

  3. Not really much to say after this one. Basically went the way I, maybe most would have expected it to gone. We knew the Lakers would struggle to score without Kobe and we would need monster games from Dwight and Gasol, we didn’t get that. But at least we know this team is here to compete and is putting a big emphasis on defense. I don’t think we can beat this team without Kobe, but I do expect us to make a series out of it. This will not be a sweep.

  4. whtat i don´t understand why MD don’t use godelock we need that outside jumper-

  5. Have to wonder what happened to Clark. Seems with Metta and Jamison not oriducing Clark should have played more then 6 ninutes. Mike has problems making adjustments.

  6. fine recap Darius – & Blake certainly deserves mention for his defensive effort on Parker

  7. Rusty Shackleford April 21, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    Steve Blake was off today. Where was his 23 points and 6 rebounds? Just kidding.

    They competed they just couldn’t hit shots. I was hoping for Earl Clark to add a scoring punch the Spurs hadn’t planned for.

    I really hope to see Dwight and Duncan get chippy in the remainder of the series. I want Dwight to go at Tim Duncan like Shaq went at David Robinson.

  8. Is it just me, or is anyone else sick of the college level ‘white-outs, black-outs, red-outs, blue-outs’. Enough, all-ready.

    This series will not be a sweep. The last team standing will be the one that has the least amount of injuries or re-injuries during the series.

    Go Lakers.

  9. Darius,

    Comnsidering the number of turnovers and missed shots, I thought that the Laker defense was amazing. On the offensive side, the difference was more strategy than talent. Popovich staged the entrance of each key player and alternative options, moving to the next package as appropriate–almost like a Shakespeare play. If the Lakers broke through, he’d call timeout and reload–stifling Laker momentum. It was almost like he was coaching both teams.

    D’Antoni remained in crisis mode the entire game, always playing catch-up. The offense never had a chance to emerge and grow sufficiently strategically–if there actually was a strategy.

    In proper sequence and rhythm the Laker threes will magically fall when needed and the Spurs might even get pushed out of sequence and into catch-up for a change. Even Kobe and Magic might get onboard.

  10. Excellent recap Darius. The Spurs basically dared our perimeter players to beat them and, @ least for today, they couldn’t. The fact that, for the most part, none of them can create their own shot isn’t going to help us either. The loss of Kobe will be magnified, for however long this series last, against Popovich’s defensive schemes.

    Our defense was solid for the most part (particularly SB’s effort against TP) and Dwight contributed as much as one could expect offensively, taking into account the fact that, because our jumpers weren’t falling, he had no freedom to operate.

    Also, for those expecting him to be like Shaq now that he’s “The Franchise Player” (with Kobe being out); Real Talk – 7’1, 320 .. 6’10, 270. Size Matters.

  11. From the other thread:

    rr: then he’s not max player and Lakers would NOT win rings with him as their best player. There aren’t limits to greatness. If going into a game and the THREAT of Dwight going for 35 pts and 15 rebs isn’t there he’s not franchise player. And Lakers would be making a huge mistake locking him up for 5 years and not knowing if they’ll have a superstar to pair with him in the future.

    I’m no huge cp3 fan but he is great and there’s a threat of him going bananas in a game. 20 assists or 10 steals type of game. LeBron and Durant going into a game you expect dominance but also something historical. Even Rondo there’s a sense of something great could happen. You don’t get that with Dwight and that’s not the sign of a great great player. Someone with his gifts and mediocre games, like today, isn’t something Lakers fans should accept.

    I pretty much disagree with everything here. No, Howard is not as good as James or Durant, but that is no reason to let him walk. He is a high-level two-way talent. The Lakers need to:

    1. Keep Howard
    2. Hope and pray and wish that Kobe can come back, because I think Amnestying him is more of a thought exercise for ESPN guys than it is something that Jim Buss will actually do
    3. Make the right decision on Pau
    4. Make the right decision on D’Antoni
    5. Add youth and D on the perimeter

  12. Is it just me, or is anyone else sick of the college level ‘white-outs, black-outs, red-outs, blue-outs’. Enough, all-ready.

    Not just you. I don’t like it, much, either.

  13. Less nash more wins.

  14. Watching OKC game D Fish would be out best 3 point shooter. He just outscored the entire Laker bench today.

  15. Mike D calling Kobe and his tweets a FAN might just be the nail in his career coffin. Kobe has been the franchise there Mike. He earned the right. You are just passing through and have never won anything. not smart.

  16. Tra: Shaq wasn’t all power he showed finesse and balance when it was needed. No one is clamoring for dunks and bully ball every time down. But being aggressive and taking it to another level is necessary to win in the playoffs.

    It’s pretty amazing the level of acceptance that there is with Dwight current level of play. When Pau came here he was expected to be better. When Shaq was traded here he was expected to be better. When LeBron went to Miami he was expected to be better. I don’t get the same feeling that those are the expectations for Dwight and that shows he’s not a championship level player. Hate to rail on the guy but the game was there to be had and Dwight didn’t deliver.

  17. Kevin,
    You say you hate to rail on Dwight but you never once acknowledge any of the factors that contributed to Dwight not scoring at the rate you’d have liked him to. Also, one of the reasons this game was even close was because of the Lakers’ defense, which is directly related to Dwight’s influence and ability to be a fixture in the paint. Dwight’s a much better defender than Shaq ever was and his impact on that end is amazingly high right now, yet you only talk offense while never once talking about the Lakers lack of shooting and how that impacts post players. Shaq played with Scott, Shaw, and Anderson in Orlando and Fisher, Rice, Shaw, Kobe, Fox, and Horry in LA. Surround Shaq with this Lakers’ roster & eliminate the illegal defense rule and the equation changes a great deal.

  18. Kevin,

    What is Dwight supposed to do? Give the team 30 and 20 every night? Dwight has never been a volume scorer. He has always hung his hat on defense. Keep in mind everyone knew he was coming off major back surgery. If any fans thought Dwight was going to come here after back surgery and play BETTER than he did in Orlando then they’ve been hanging with Cheech and Chong. Most of us had accepted that we’d never see that Dwight. But if he could get to 90% of it the team would be fine. That is about where he is now. There is not an active center in the league who can significantly go above Dwight’s current production.

  19. Another issue is that the Lakers have never felt comfortable shooting in San Antonio. They complain about the backdrop changing their depth perception. Let’s see if they can continue to play effective defense and maybe the shooting will come around in game 2.

  20. other big point…the spurs struggled the last 20 games and the hope was the the poor play of the injured Manu and TP that was the biggest cause of those struggles, would continue. Unfortunately, it appears that Pop was simply resting them as he had built up a huge cushion of wins to allow them to have a bad stretch and not lose too much ground, and it appears that has worked. Manu was very good, and TP while less than stellar, seems healthy and ready to contribute. That makes this a lot bigger challenge.

  21. I’m with you on that, Darius. To be honest, based on his body of work over his career, I would even argue that in the way that we give Kobe a pretty big break for his (lack of) even the semblance of defensive effort because of how much he is asked to do on the offensive end, Dwight may deserve some of that when we look at his contributions offensively. Yes, Dwight is much younger, but he is coming off major back surgery and admittedly didn’t even beging to think about conditioning until the all-star break. That being the case, the sheer amount of effort Dwight has been putting forth on the defensive end as of late, while not completely excusing a lack of offense, should be something that we take into account as a mitigating factor.

    It’s not that the Lakers don’t need more from him, it may just simply be a reality of the situation that his body has nothing left for him to give. He hasn’t necessarily been consistent this year with the effort, but I, for one, do feel like he has turned the corner with regards to his impact on the defensive end. Dragging the Lakers sorry assortment of perimeter defenders (Metta sorta excluded) to even a league average defensive efficiency seems to me like an almost herculean accomplishment

  22. Darius: With Kobe out Dwight needs to be more aggressive and force the issue. He has the cache to demand the ball from his teammates. he did a nice job of kicking out to open shooters when doubled. But 12 shots isn’t enough especially with Kobe out. He’s playing at a regular season level. Dwight has a tremendous effect on the Lakers defense but that’s only one side of the floor. The standard is high being a Lakers center. Shaq may have taken plays off on defense but he gave hard fouls and the affect of players knowing they’re hitting the hardwood is as effective Tony Parker knowing he’ll have to shoot a high floater over Dwight. Kobe is asked in his 17th season to be great on both sides playing with those same role players you mentioned for Dwight and he did it. The same standard should be held for Dwight.

    T. Rogers: It’s about him being aggressive looking for his. Nobody will blame him for trying to establish himself on offense with Kobe out. He’s conceding to doing just enough on offense and being dominant on defense when he could dominate both ends of the court. Why shouldn’t a player in his prime get 30 and 20 against Splitter and an aging Duncan?

  23. great defensive game,on to next,Pau go to block and park there.
    Kobe you are missed,sore to the eyes.

  24. Why shouldn’t a player in his prime get 30 and 20 against Splitter and an aging Duncan?

    The Spurs were 3rd in the NBA in Defensive Rating, Duncan is still an elite big, and Splitter has developed into a quality player. Add that to the defense rules, (Darius noted that), the Lakers weak perimeter players, and who coaches the Spurs, and it is easy to see that castigating Howard for not putting up Shaq 2001 Finals numbers against this team is a badly misguided criticism of him.

  25. come on, we had good defense tonight; we lack offense. nash should have not played. the team needed to adjust again for him. d’antoni is stupid not to play all his guys during the season, now, players are adjusting to as the agme progress instead during the season. morris and clark, though commits few turnovers, have lost of energy than nash and blake combined. sit nash.

  26. Kevin_,
    If you think you are justified in asking the same effort & dedication from Dwight as you are used to getting from Kobe, you really don’t understand what is so special about Kobe. You simply are going to have to expect less from any other player – even Lebron (though his sheer talent and size allows him to do more).

    There is only one Kobe and he has given everything he has had – and a bit more – to the Lakers. That is his genius, not simply his talent. He has made the absolute most of the talent he was given. Do not try to compare other players effort and dedication to him because you will always come up short. Love him or hate him, he has always given us his all.

    That is really the main reason for fans to watch every minute he is on the court. He is unique.

  27. melgums: i doubt D´Antoni will sit Nash, that´s his man for better or worse

    T. Rogers: “ If any fans thought Dwight was going to come here after back surgery and play BETTER than he did in Orlando then they’ve been hanging with Cheech and Chong. ´´LOL!!
    My favorite all-time comedy is `Up In Smoke´- directed by Lou Adler, Lakers fan

    Good thread here fellas, I´d add my 2 cents and say that D12 seemed to give his best effort yesterday & seeing as he´ll surely adjust as each game is played, why couldn´t he break out and get a 30/20 performance on O & dominate on D? I think of LeBron´s performance in game 6 against Boston last year, back against the wall, the weightof the roundball world on his shoulders and he found his breakthrough game just in time – he´s never looked back..
    Obviously D12 is not playing alone out there, everyone else has to step up as well to give him an opportunity to attain these loftier goals.
    Hope it comes to fruition –

  28. What a pathetic coach! Calling the player whom he ran 48 mins and torn Achilles, a fan? This fan happens to have better playoff wining % than MDA. This coach is joke. Calling a passionate injured teammate just a fan. MDA has no business in coaching a professional team. Basically, Kobe has no use for MDA now, so he can call Kobe a fan. When Kobe was dropping 30-5-5 a night, what did MDA call him?

  29. Shaq wasn’t all power he showed finesse and balance when it was needed.

    Well it must have been needed only 5% of the time because the other 95%, Shaq was dominating with pure power and using his Size Advantage against the Rick Smits, Dikembe Mutumbo’s and Luc Longley’s of the world. I don’t know what you consider to be finesse, but when it comes to big men, the first three individuals who comes to mind for me are KAJ, Hakeem Olajuwan and Tim Duncan. And Shaq’s game was far from theirs. Opposing Centers weren’t lamenting going up against Shaq because of his Finesse. Officials weren’t stating that he was probably the most difficult individual to referee because of his Finesse. The League didn’t implement Zone Defense at that time because of his Finesse. Very rarely do I hear individuals equate Shaq with Finesse. Using his name and that word (which, granted, I am doing now) in the same sentence is an oddity. Even if one was to take Basketball out of the equation, the first thing individuals comment on upon meeting Shaq is his size. And trust n believe, in no way, shape or form am I riding down on The Deisel. I am thankful and grateful for everything that he’s done for our organization. He was the central figure in us 3peating. I just find it hard to believe that if Shaq (with his decent skill-set and suspect work ethic) was 6’10, 270 lbs, he would be regarded, in some circles, as the MDE (Most Dominant Ever). So, IMO, his size was the Main (and only) Factor that really mattered in him accomplishing as much as he did.

  30. I think Dwight did what he was supposed to do on both ends of the floor, the problem was the perimeter shooting or lack thereof, 12-33 from our backcourt allowed the Spurs to tighten up on Dwight, is as simple as that, he had a great game considering he was shackled by bad shooting from everybody else. Dwight is never been a 27ppg guy and after 9 years in the league he is what he is.Im more interested on his rebounding and defense than him putting 30ppg. If i remember correctly, the rest of the team shoot like 20-56 overall, you cant beat the Washington Generals with that kind of shooting. Kobe was really really missed on this one.

  31. people who have outrage about the coach calling kobe a fan, need to seriously think about that for a moment. you are expecting a coach to openly admit that Kobe has final authority to, from his couch, over rule the uncontested coach’s job of overseeing the offence? Dantoni is supposed to both a) like that and b) think that is the message he wants to set out to the world?

    Dantoni did well to turn this into a bit of joke which is what he did, by calling Kobe a fan, and if anyone looks at it, they can read the body language and see it was done in a light hearted way. I get that the misplaced enormous venom and scapegoating of Dantoni as the source of all evil in mankind is somehow appeased by thinking that “kobe is the real coach”, but people need to just think about the message that sends out.

  32. Well said Harvey, if you believe some people here, MDA is responsible for the famine in Africa, North Korea and the Boston bombings and lets throw in 9/11 for good measure, he have made mistakes but this was a setup for failure job, with all the injuries PJ himself probably could do a little little better but not that much, this team would had limp into the playoffs regardless who was coaching. I think the game plan was fine but the players specially the backcourt failed at it. Whats the adjustment for missing shots?And what people expect? For Kobe to coach thru tweeter? Im fine with MDA statement and Kobe himself back off. So whats the problem?

  33. Darius,

    Good write-up. I saw the game largely as you did.

    I’m surprised about the criticisms of Nash here. The takeaway from this game (when the Lakers had the ball) was about our inability for our perim. players to hit shots when SA clogged the middle. By contrast, Nash’s shots coming off the PNR were pretty much all good looks. Looking forward to game 2, I would rather take my chances on Nash hitting those midrange jumpers than I would Meeks, AJ, or MWP suddenly getting white-hot from three.

    I can’t tell as yet if SA is just not that good or if our defensive intensity took a lot away from them (I would say in Parker’s case that he just played poorly and missed plenty of shots he normally makes), but just as they relentlessly milk the 24 second clock and throw play after play after play at you, they have so much of a deeper bench than we do and can throw player after player after player at you as well.

    I confess that I see little reason for optimism in terms of the series as a whole, but if the Lakers can sustain that kind of defensive effort, we should be able to take a game or two when our perimeter shots fall. This sounds terrible, but part of me is treating this series as a pre-preseason, taking a final look at what we have (under a high-pressure situation), so the FO can decide how to (re)construct this team for next year when hopefully the roster won’t be decimated by injuries.

  34. @rr

    What is the right decision on Pau and the right decision on D’Antoni?

  35. Craig W/Tra/rr: The comparison between Kobe and Dwight was from a franchise player outlook. Kobe as a lifelong Laker carries, willingly, a bigger burden. Dwight is viewed as the future and should shoulder the same responsibility when he’s the main guy. Kobe’s will is unmatched but his aggressive play in the playoffs is shared by many playing now. Shaq was double and triple teamed plenty but he stayed determined and made the defense pay for whichever coverage they threw at him. If Dwight upped his determination and aggressiveness the numbers will follow and the team will be better. Many Lakers role players hit their season averages you can’t ask for more than that on the road. Dwight should want the ball and want to decide the outcome of games whether it’s shooting or passing to teammates from the post. He needs to be featured heavily.

  36. So 12-33 from the backcourt is season avg? Gasol fg% was season avg? Shaq had some shooters that would make you pay, yesterday Dwight didnt had them ,the shooters failures make the ball tougher to get to the post, it was a cascade effect really, if the shooters hit some of their shots, especially the wide open ones which they missed all game, it automatically make things easier for the post. Dwight had a lot more touches than 12 but a lot of times he was forced to get rid of the ball or turn it over because the Spurs D would converge on him because they did not fear our shooters. Its as simple like that. Another thing, Shaq was a behemoth of a man, he was taller heavier and stronger than Dwight, he could ram his way to the rim, Howard needs space.

  37. Fern: so the smart thing to do would be for Dwight to take shots away from the players who aren’t making them, right? Has Dwight not learned anything from Kobe? Bringing up double teams mean nothing all great players find a way to beat it. Dwight’s in his prime nothing should be stopping him. A hook shot away from the double team, a kick out for a re-post or forcing the issue for a shot attempt. Lakers need him to dictate to defenses not the other way around. It’s all rim rocking lobs from Pau.

  38. darius: so if the lakers did not struggle to score, spurs still take advantage and game 1 of the series? it would appear so because the final score was relatively close. shucks, darn and there went that opportunity. but the series is just beginning and had we won the first game, our guard would be down and we’d be easy pickings for the remainder of the series. just the opposite will now happen and the lakers will begin to seize the moment.

    in a nutshell that’s so true and typical of a laker team sans kobe is the current thinking. because each game is a lesson in few adjustments, the lakers need to continue to provide steadfast defense to keep the games close and with some timely made baskets (insert names here) the outcome would have been far different and we would be praising the efforts and not looking for scapegoats. let’s leave that to the scapegoaters.

    we believe that the lakers believe.

    Go Lakers

  39. @rr

    What is the right decision on Pau and the right decision on D’Antoni?

    Good question. Answer: I don’t know.

    It is obvious that they need to keep Howard, and it is obvious that they need to try to add some cheap youth, D, and athleticism on the perimeter. Pau and MDA are at this point, “Well, it depends” calls.