Game one is down, and it’s looking like a long 81 games are remaining. Let’s break down how the team did through the help of some post game Lakers data to get a better sense of what happened on the court Thursday.
Utilizing play type data, which I give a tutorial to here for Nylon Calculus, we can look at each Laker performance and compare how the team did to how an average team would have performed had they been given the same amount of possessions.
These possessions also account for turnovers and shooting fouls, and the point totals will incorporate points from foul shots as a result of shooting fouls.
The Laker Offense
The expected points are calculated by multiplying the average points scored in the NBA last season by play type with the number of possessions the team had in each area. So for transition, which has an expected points per possession of 1.10, the expected points for LA would be 1.10 * 30 (transition possessions) = 33.0. They actually scored 21 points, so they were 12 points worse than the expectation.
The Lakers were BAD in transition
LA had 25% of their total possessions be in transition, but only generated 21 points on those 30 opportunities. Jordan Clarkson, Brandon Ingram, and Brook Lopez shooting a combined 0 for 9 in transition is a major culprit. That won’t continue, but the poor preseason transition efficiency continuing into the regular season isn’t a good sign for LA.
There is no negative correlation between transition opportunities and transition efficiency (looking back at the past 12 years of data in Synergy’s database), so history would tell us that poor Laker shooting in transition isn’t an expected outcome purely from high volume.
Our Pick and Roll Scoring Struggled
Jordan Clarkson was 3 for 8 in the pick and roll. Ingram (0 for 3), Ball (0 for 2), and Ennis (0 for 2) were a combined 0 for 8. Five of our 16 shots from the pick and roll were at the rim, which is a good percentage. Over time I’d expect this efficiency to regress positively.
Isolation was a mess for LA in their first game. Randle and Clarkson each had a turnover and Lonzo drew a shooting foul (then bricked two free throws). Brandon Ingram was the only player to get a shot off, and he went 1 for 6 and had a turnover.
1 for 6 is bad, but the fact that 7 of Ingram’s 20 possessions were in isolation is unacceptable. 35% of a player’s possessions in isolation is too high for anyone, let along Brandon Ingram.
One of the only positive aspects of the overall anemic Laker offense was their spot up shooting. Brook Lopez and Jordan Clarkson led the way shooting a combined 4 for 5. Ball and Caruso also each pitched in a make on a shot each.
The Laker Defense
We can replicate this analysis for the team’s defensive performance. Since these are just looking at points and possessions, a wide open spot up opportunity resulting in 0 points and a well defended spot up opportunity resulting in 0 points will appear the same. One game samples will have some degree of noise in the data for this reason.
The Defensive data… Looks Good
Watching live there were plenty of defensive breakdowns, easily conceded drives middle, over helping that penetration, and some apparent communication errors, but the Laker half court defense still somehow played pretty well. Whether that’s more on the Clippers for missing good shots or the Lakers actually playing good defense can’t be separated from this high level data, but I’ll take it.
The Lakers defensive performance yesterday actually earned the team the 3rd best half court defensive points per possession perch in the league so far. That won’t continue, but there were some encouraging stats from Thursday’s game to help Laker fans keep their heads up.
More Transition Blues
The team conceded 5.5 points more than an average team would if facing the same number of transition possessions. That means that between offense and defense, the team was 17.5 points worse than expected. That’s killer.
Somehow the Clippers scored more points in transition despite having half as many transition possessions yesterday, with 15 less than the Lakers. That’s a recipe for disaster, and if the Lakers want to win games this season they’ll need to win the transition battle.
The team stopped opposing pick and roll ball handlers well Thursday. The Clippers scoring 8 points less than expected is a great sign for LA, but shouldn’t be surprising based on how they defended during the preseason (check out defensive facts 2 and 3). Strongly correlated with pick and roll ball handler scoring is pull up shooting from the Clippers, where LA also dominated. The 2 for 15 shooting from the Clippers matches up well with the 3rd best preseason pull up defense (covered in defensive fact 6).
Unlike during preseason, the Lakers didn’t get killed on spot up attempts and catch and shoot jumpers. Where penetration did get to LA was on the 18 points conceded on putback attempts. Giving up 5 more points than expected and 9.4% of the Clippers’ possessions being on putbacks is evidence of that.
Those numbers are a testament to them getting penetration and their inside men getting position at the rim as the Lakers closed down on the penetrating guards. Those guards shot and missed, but their bigs were in great position to get offensive rebounds as a result of the Lakers rotating over to stop the penetration.
Individual Defensive Data
When looking at how individual primary defenders did yesterday, there are a few performances to smile about. Here are a few of the better Laker players and how opponents shot when guarded by them:
Lopez: 2 for 13
Clarkson: 1 for 7
Lonzo: 3 for 15
Ingram: 1 for 6
Kuzma: 0 for 4
Here is how the rest of the team fared defensively.
Overall Lakers Data Thoughts
Watching Thursday’s game was brutal, but we are left with a couple positives when looking at data.
We got out in transition a ton. The execution on those opportunities *should* come. If it does, a 12 point bump in the team’s scoring is substantial.
Several Lakers had good individual defensive statistics, and that translated. The team’s half court defense overall did pretty well on paper.
It wasn’t a good game, but there are a few components to build on. Let’s hope for a better follow up performance against Phoenix Friday night.