The Lakers’ first “W” is in the books after a nice bounceback performance against Phoenix on Friday night. Let’s peer into the Lakers data for a look at how the team executed.
The Lakers offense turned it around against the Suns, fresh off of an abysmal performance against the Clippers. Their game one Created Points Over Expectation was -25.7, meaning that an average team would have scored 25.7 points more on the same shots as the Lakers took. The team looked different this game, and it showed in the data.
The Laker offense this game was actually better than average, scoring 9 points more than we’d expect of them.
After two games, the team finally has a better efficiency in transition than in the half court. This will absolutely continue, and LA should perform well both in terms of transition frequency and execution.
6.5% of the team’s possessions being in isolation is a welcome number to see. That number was 8.4% the day before. 3 for 7 shooting with some free throw points is a good day in iso. If the team can be an average iso scoring team and keep the usage of it below 7.4%, which was league average from last season, I’ll be happy.
A Transition in Transition
Transition and P&R Ball Handler were the two most glaring weak points after the first game. Those two play types were the areas of most strength Friday.
LA got out in transition for 23% of their possessions against the Suns, which was a slight decrease from 25% the day before. However, the team was 4.1 points better than the expectation, compared to 12 points below expectation Thursday. That’s a massive jump in efficiency for the squad and a very needed one.
Lonzo had several fantastic outlet passes to get the team into plenty of opportunities and it paid off on the scoreboard, providing the Lakers with 36 total points.
Picking it Up
LA also thrived in the pick and roll. A combined +8.4 from ball handlers and roll men is a stark increase from -9.5 against the Clippers. Lonzo Ball’s 9 for 16 performance as a pick and roll ball handler fueled LA’s rising efficiency in this category.
The team’s only real area of underperformance comes with their scoring on cuts, but this was overall a solid performance from the Lakers offensively.
Defense was a strong point statistically for the Lakers. They’ve fallen from grace but still have a very respectable 11th best defensive points per possession as a team. They check in with the 10th best half court defense and 26th best transition defense, which was their weakest area against the Clippers.
Picking LA Apart
The Lakers were a combined 9 points better than the expectation on defense everywhere other than defending the ball handler in pick and roll plays. -16.1 points in that area comes as a surprise, considering the team’s 3rd best defensive efficiency in that area during preseason and apparent focus on stopping the ball handler.
Upon turning to the tape, it’s easy to see Brook Lopez and Andrew Bogut were exposed in the pick and roll. Neither player was able to stay in front of Eric Bledsoe or Mike James if they hard hedged, and when they soft hedged they really stayed back. Combine that with Ball and other Laker players’ prodigious ability to die when they make contact with a screen and there were plenty of possessions that looked like these:
Caruso goes DOWN on the screen and Bogut sags very deep, giving up an open 3-pointer that’s drilled
Lonzo is easily taken out by this screen and Kuzma closes out late, resulting in a pretty open 3 that Mike James hits
Lonzo again is taken out by the screen, but this time it’s Lopez who’s deep into the paint, conceding the 3-point make ot Bledsoe
On this play Lopez hedges a little harder and isn’t as deep into the paint. The ball handler clears his hips, drives by him, and finishes at the rim
The Lakers will need to address this moving forward, but played well in just about other aspect of their defense.
Off Screen Defense
The other area LA didn’t grade out well in was defending shooters off screens. A look at film shows three different made shots from three different shooters in unique situations. A well executed flare screen for Josh Jackson after a dribble handoff, a quick pin down for Troy Daniels, and Brad Stevens’ “Winner” slideline out of bounds play for Devin Booker. In none of those instances was a concerning defensive breakdown made, so there are no lingering long-term concerns.
Overall Lakers Data Thoughts
The Lakers picking it up offensively is a relief to see. Look out for continued improvement in the execution of half court sets and sustained execution in transition.
The team will need to clean up its pick and roll defense. Relatively immobile centers and several guards who don’t play screens well will make that a challenge. It’ll be an item to monitor throughout the season.
Next up: New Orleans at home on Sunday at 6:30 PM PST.