This post was written by FB&G contributor, Andre Khatchaturian.
When the NBA schedule was released this past summer and you looked at the Lakers’ opponents during the first week, you probably scratched your head and said, “Wow, it looks like we’re starting 0-3.”
The Lakers have dealt with three NBA Finals contenders and they came away with a win. Heck, they almost came away with two wins. Because of the high expectations of the past, it’s hard to say this, but the Lakers have to be content with where they’re at after the first three games of the 2013-14 regular season.
They stepped up in a huge way against their in-house rival on opening night and went toe to toe with the defending Western Conference champions until the fourth quarter. As for the Golden State game, it was a back-to-back situation on the road, a night after an emotional victory, against a superior team who was playing their home opener. I’ll give a pass for that.
The Lakers have shown great promise after the first three games. Despite being 1-2, Laker fans have to be happy with the way the bench and other role players have performed. Scoring 76 points off the bench on opening night would have been unheard of last year. That probably won’t happen with Kobe in the lineup, but the team has depth, something they’ve lacked in the last few years.
Jordan Farmar, Jordan Hill, and Xavier Henry have been three players who have contributed in big ways. In fact, the lineup combination of Farmar-Hill-Henry-Johnson-Meeks has been the most productive so far, averaging a +4.3 point differential per game.
Speaking of Farmar, the two-time champion leads the team in touches and has a field goal percentage of 48.3%. He’s also dishing the ball well with five assists per game. After three games, he has been the most effective Laker.
The only other member of the 2009 and 2010 championship teams, Pau Gasol, has been up and down. He’s grabbing over 10 boards per game and averaging close to 16 points, but he has a -11.7 per game point differential – worst on the team. He hasn’t been effective defensively and this may be a cause for concern going forward.
The Lakers lead the league in shots allowed from between 0-8 feet. These shots are highly efficient and teams have been shooting over 53% against the Lakers from this range. The second most efficient shooting range is three point land. The Lakers have also allowed the most threes in the NBA and teams are shooting 41% from this distance.
Interestingly, the Lakers also lead the league in threes taken and shots taken from 0-8 feet and they’ve been fairly efficient from both ranges. So essentially, the Lakers are doing what we expected they would do: score a lot and struggle defensively.
This week, the Lakers have a busy schedule as they play four games. After a home affair against the Hawks, they hit the road for a difficult three-game road trip at Dallas, Houston, and the newly named New Orleans Pelicans.
Atlanta has lost several key pieces from past seasons and the Lakers are at home. If they play the way they played against the Clippers and Spurs, they should be able to take that one. In fact, they need to win on Sunday because the next three after that are brutal.
Dallas is coming off a year where they missed the playoffs, Houston has a certain center who is going to wake up against his former team, and the Pelicans game is a back-to-back affair.
The Lakers could breathe a little bit after the road trip, though, as six of their seven games after the trip is at Staples.