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Week At A Glance

Andre Khatchaturian —  January 25, 2014

Despite missing a chunk of the lineup and traveling across the entire Eastern seaboard in a week, the Los Angeles Lakers have to be extremely happy with how their Grammy road trip ended no matter what happens tomorrow afternoon in New York.

Think about it. At one point this week, the Lakers couldn’t do five-on-five drills during practice because only nine guys were healthy enough to practice. They had two sets of road back-to-backs. They’re giving regular minutes to two D-league players (Manny Harris and Kendall Marshall) and head coach Mike D’Antoni still refuses to give big boy minutes to his most efficient player, Jordan Hill.

After beating the Toronto Raptors, the Lakers lost a heartbreaker in overtime against the Chicago Bulls and went toe-to-toe against back-to-back champion Miami before running out of gas in Orlando. The Lakers have to be tired.

Of course, just saying giving the team an A for effort isn’t going to cut it. There are still several legitimate issues that could be taken care of — even with the depleted roster.

Let’s start with Jordan Hill’s playing time. The power forward has the third highest offensive rebound rate in the entire league yet he’s still only averaging 19.8 minutes per game. Heck, Shawne Williams who is no longer on the team still has a higher MPG than Hill.

Hill also has the highest PER on the Lakers – hovering over the 19 mark. This essentially means he’s the most efficient player on the Lakers, but he receives laughable playing time.

The reason why this is frustrating to see from afar is because the Lakers are the worst rebounding team in the league. When one looks at the basic stats, they see the Lakers rank 20th in rebounding – averaging 42.6 boards per game. However, the advanced stats tell the real story. The Lakers are dead last in rebounding percentage and grab only 46.9 percent of all rebounding opportunities.

This is how Tobias Harris gets 20 rebounds in a game and the Miami Heat, who are also an awful team on the glass, out-rebound the Lakers, 48-35.

When a team doesn’t get defensive rebounds, they give their opponent more chances to score. On the flip side, if they do get offensive rebounds, they get more opportunities to score. It’s a simple concept that shows how valuable rebounding is and one would think that if a team had the third best offensive rebounder in the game, he’d get more action.

Hill, however, got fewer minutes than Manny Harris last night.

The numbers show that Hill doesn’t get tired when he plays a lot. He’s played four games where he’s logged over 30 minutes and he averaged 12 rebounds. Also, in back-to-back situations he averages two more rebounds per game than he does after a day of rest. This isn’t to say that he should average 40 minutes per night, but perhaps a little bit more than the peanut minutes he’s getting right now would help the Lakers on the glass.

Other than this, every excuse regarding injuries is valid for the Lakers. They have been ravaged by the injury bug all season long and as a result, have been forced to play inexperienced players. Because of this, they have struggled mightily on defense. The Lakers haven’t held an opponent to fewer than 100 points in 11 games.

That said, they have to be happy with the effort and the surprising play of Kendall Marshall. Last night against Orlando, he dished out 14 assists and only had one turnover. He also added 19 points. Those are numbers elite point guards like Chris Paul or Rajon Rondo put up on a regular basis. Marshall still has a lot to learn — his defense is suspect and he turns the ball over too much — but if this continues, then Marshall may have locked up a spot for himself on the roster for the foreseeable future.

The Lakers finish up their Grammy trip against the Knicks tomorrow afternoon on ABC. They won’t have a welcome return home, though, as they take on one of the league’s best teams in the Indiana Pacers. The Lakers will close out the week at home against the Bobcats.

The Los Angeles Lakers made a furious rally late in the fourth quarter, but Chris Bosh, LeBron James, and the back-to-back defending champion Miami Heat held off the Purple and Gold and won, 109-102.

Bosh scored 31 and James added 27 as the Heat opened up a 16-point lead in the third quarter. However, the Lakers slowly chipped away at the lead and cut it to 98-94 with 4:09 remaining. A late LeBron three pointer with just over two minutes to go increased the Miami lead to 106-99 and the Heat never looked back from there.

There was a long stretch in the fourth quarter where the Heat would promptly respond to every Laker basket. Both teams were on fire. In fact, from the 5:56 mark of the fourth until the 1:39 point, neither team missed a shot. It was a remarkable display of up and down basketball by both teams and it was Miami’s rapid response to the Lakers’ clutch shooting that sealed the deal for the Heat.

For the Lakers, Pau Gasol and Jodie Meeks (both big factors in the Lakers’ offensive burst in the fourth) each scored 22 points. Kendall Marshall added 11 assists but the Lakers as a whole did not do a great job moving the ball — only recording 21 assists on 40 field goals made. The team shot 36 percent from three point land – a figure that’s closer to their three point average when they lose (33 percent) than their three point average when they win (43 percent).

The most glaring stat of the game, though, was rebounds. The Lakers got murdered on the glass to an awful rebounding team, 48-35. While the Purple and Gold had more offensive rebounds than the Heat, the Heat were more efficient in getting offensive rebounds. Out of 34 rebound opportunities, the Heat had 12 offensive boards while the Lakers grabbed 13 on a whopping 49 opportunities.

As mentioned in the preview, the Heat may have the fewest rebounds per game, but it’s the Lakers that have the lowest rebounding percentage in the league. LeBron had 13 rebounds and absolutely dominated Wesley Johnson and anyone else that attempted to guard him throughout the game. Greg Oden, the oft-injured former No. 1 overall pick, also made his presence felt, getting four offensive rebounds. Meanwhile for the Lakers, Jordan Hill finally got some playing time and got seven rebounds in 22 minutes. Perhaps if he played more, the rebounding disparity may have shrunk because of Hill’s athleticism and rebounding skills.

At the end of the day, the Lakers actually played a solid game against an extremely superior opponent on the road. They fall to 2-3 on the road trip and have now lost eight of their last nine against Miami, but they hung in there and fought hard until the final whistle and that’s all Laker fans can ask from their team at this juncture. The Vegas spread was +11 and they covered it. They only had 11 turnovers, shot over 45 percent from the field, and even got on a little bit of a run at the end. Ultimately, it’s never easy beating the world’s greatest player and another All-Star especially when he’s on his game and the Lakers defense struggled badly against Bosh and James.

The Lakers now head to Orlando to take on the Magic before finishing off their Grammy road trip in the Big Apple.

The back-to-back NBA champion Miami Heat and the injury-riddled Los Angeles Lakers are two teams heading in opposite directions and they’ll be squaring off in South Beach tonight at 5:00 p.m. on TNT.

Lakers Coming In: The Lakers come in to the game having lost 13 of their last 16 games. That said, they have won two of their last three and lost their last game at Chicago on a last second layup in overtime. The Lakers are 2-2 on their seven-game Grammy road trip and will play their next two games in the state of Florida before closing out the trip at Madison Square Garden.

Injury problems continued for the Lakers, who are already missing Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Steve Blake, Jordan Farmar, and Xavier Henry. Pau Gasol missed practice yesterday and only nine Lakers practiced, which meant they were unable to do 5-on-5 drills.

The Lakers are thin, obviously, but it’s impressive how they continue to fight hard despite all the injury problems. Gasol has been incredible in January – averaging 20.4 points and 12.2 rebounds per game.

Meanwhile, Kendall Marshall and Ryan Kelly have both been on a tear, as well. During the road trip, Kelly is a +5.5 per game (highest on the team) and averaging 14.8 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. Marshall, on the other hand, has continued to be an effective distributor – averaging 11.5 assists on the road trip. Miami doesn’t have the strongest back court in the world so expect Marshall to have another field day.

Finally, it seems like the Lakers have found a dependable lineup combination this month. The combination of Gasol-Kelly-Johnson-Meeks-Marshall has been a +19 in 56 minutes this month. It’s the most effective and most used lineup combination for the Lakers in January. What’s interesting is that when the Lakers replace Kelly with Robert Sacre in the same lineup combination, the numbers fall drastically (-43 in 50 minutes in January). This exemplifies Kelly’s strong play throughout the month.

Heat Coming In: The Miami Heat are well on their way to at least another Eastern Conference Final appearance in the weak East. That being said, they’ve lost four of their last seven and are now four games behind the Indiana Pacers for the No. 1 seed in the East.

We won’t see Dwyane Wade tonight as the guard continues to rest.

That last sentence essentially tells us what the Heat really care about – the playoffs. They know that there is no point to play their oft-injured star in a meaningless regular season game when they know they need him healthy for May and June.

This may bode well for the Lakers. The Heat struggle without Wade in the lineup and are only 6-6. With him on the floor, they’re 24-6.

With Wade out, we will see plenty of LeBron and Chris Bosh. James has had another incredible year, averaging 26.2 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 6.5 assists. The “6.7 rebounds” is nice for James, but it’s also glaring for the team as a whole. James is the leading rebounder with just 6.7 rebounds. The Heat are the worst rebounding team in the league, averaging just 36.5 rebounds per game.

Head-to-Head: The Heat have beaten the Lakers in seven of their last eight meetings. These two teams squared off on Christmas Day and the Lakers played the Heat close before succumbing in the last half of the fourth quarter. The Heat shot 51.3 percent from the field in that game and won, 101-95.

Miami also grabbed 43 rebounds in that game – their second highest rebounding total of the season. The Lakers may have Gasol and Jordan Hill on their roster, but they’re actually a pathetic rebounding team as a whole. The team may rank 18th in the league in total rebounding, but they’re dead last in rebound percentage. This means they lose plenty of rebound battles. Hill’s diminishing minutes with the team may have something to do with this, so it’ll be interesting to see how much Mike D’Antoni plays him against a poor rebounding opponent.

If the Lakers want to have a chance in this game, they’re going to have to prevent the Heat from getting easy shots. They shoot an NBA best 64 percent from 0-8 feet. However, they’re just an average mid-range shooting team and with Wade out, the Lakers can stay in the game if they force the Heat to take low percentage shots and clean up the glass when they miss. That’s not an easy task, but it’s possible.

On the other end of the court, the Lakers need to continue to move the ball well. They have an AST% of 65.4 percent in January and that’s a testament to Marshall’s great play. When the Lakers move the ball well, they get good looks from three point land. When they get good looks from three point land, they make a lot of threes. When they make a lot of threes, they win.

Though that sounded like a DIRECTV commercial, it’s true. In wins this season, the Lakers shoot 43 percent from downtown compared to just 33 percent in losses. Three pointers are a big part of the Lakers game and it all starts with solid ball movement.

The Spread: The Heat are 11 point favorites. With Wade out and the Lakers playing motivated basketball, it’s not too farfetched to believe that the Lakers can cover the spread.

 

Week At A Glance

Andre Khatchaturian —  January 18, 2014

The Los Angeles Lakers finally snapped their six game losing streak this week and they did it in dramatic fashion against longtime rival Boston. The Lakers had an up and down week and were inconsistent as evidenced by two losses to Cleveland and Phoenix.

The Good: The Lakers scored over 100 points in all three games this week. With their defense struggling all season long, they need the offense to consistently put up 100+ in order to stay competitive in games. They were able to do so this week.

The Lakers shot 60 percent from three point land in Boston after shooting around 30 percent in the 13 games leading up to the showdown at the Garden. Kendall Marshall, Jodie Meeks, and Wes Johnson were all spot on from beyond the arc. The trio combined for 23-of-50 from three point land.

Speaking of Marshall, he continues to show that he’s the real deal. He has 53 assists in the last four games, which is 12 more than anyone else during that span. In the win against Boston, he hit the go ahead three pointer late in the fourth quarter showing signs of clutch.

Ryan Kelly also played the best game of his young career at Boston – scoring 20 points and playing a critical role in the fourth quarter. In fact, he’s the only player on the Lakers during the last 14 games to have a positive plus-minus rating at +0.4. Those aren’t from garbage minutes, either. Kelly played in all 14 games and averaged 18 minutes.

Finally, Pau Gasol continues to play well as he continues to put up vintage Pau numbers — at least offensively. This week he averaged 22.7 points and 11.3 rebounds per game.

Oh, and the victory over the Celtics meant that the Lakers have now beaten their cross country rivals five of the last six times. Nothing better than dominating your biggest rival.

The Bad: The Lakers continue to excel in the art of not defending well. Yes, of course, they have injuries and Mike D’Antoni’s system doesn’t exactly stress defense but check out these atrocious numbers:

Screen Shot 2014 01 18 at 5.30.30 PM

In other words, bet the over.

I actually tried to see how many times Laker fans won Jack In The Box tacos this year at Staples Center (the Lakers won and held the opponent to less than 100 points) and was surprised to see that number was six times in eight home wins. What does this mean? It means that the Lakers win when they defend. Simple as that.

They got a break last night because they were on fire from three point land and because the Celtics are the Celtics. The fact of the matter is the Lakers continue to be an awful defensive team and that’s why they fell into that awful slump.

Fans can make all the injury excuses they want. The team still has guys like Jordan Hill, Pau Gasol, and Jodie Meeks who have been in the league. There’s no excuse why Gasol has the second worst defensive rating on the Lakers.

Offensively, turnovers continued to be a problem for the Lakers. After just turning it over 12 times against Cleveland, the Lakers coughed it up 36 times over the last two road games. In the win against Boston, they did a great job in the first quarter with just one turnover. However, in the last three frames they averaged six per quarter.

The Lakers also got killed on the offensive glass this week. Their opponents averaged 15 offensive rebounds per game while the Lakers just had 7.3. The disparity in offensive rebounds means that opponents are getting more opportunities to score.

Finally, it was clear that all the losing was causing some Lakers to get frustrated. Nick Young’s punch toward Phoenix’s Alex Len resulted in his suspension from the game against Boston. The Lakers can’t afford to lose players for no reason with all these injuries bringing them down. It was only one game but the team needs to be more disciplined even when they frustration sets in.

What’s On Tap: The Lakers play two sets of back-to-backs this week. Tomorrow they have a matinee at Toronto before playing an MLK showdown against the Bulls. Then, after a couple days off they head to Florida to take on both the Heat and the Magic.

BOSTON — The Los Angeles Lakers drained 11 of their 15 second half three pointers and scored 11 unanswered points to finish the game to defeat the Boston Celtics at TD Garden, 107-104, on Friday night in Rajon Rondo’s long awaited return.

Kendall Marshall’s three with 1:09 remaining in the game put the Lakers on top, 105-104, and they hung on to win. Prior to his triple, Jodie Meeks and Wesley Johnson added threes of their own to close the gap.

After Marshall made his three, the Lakers were winding the clock down when the Celtics forced Wes Johnson to a jump ball. During the jump ball, both players appeared to tap the ball out of bounds simultaneously. The ball was awarded to the Lakers. However, after a video review, the officials called for a re-jump. Johnson won the re-jump and Ryan Kelly sank two free throws to seal the victory.

Marshall scored 19 points, 14 assists and was 4-for-5 from downtown in the victory. The Lakers also got solid production from Kelly, who scored 20 points on 6-of-12 shooting. Pau Gasol led the team in points and rebounds with 24 and 13, respectively.

Rajon Rondo made his season debut and was introduced as the team’s captain during the pre-game introductions. He showed his leadership in the second quarter by making three consecutive lay-ups and giving a Celtics an early cushion. Rondo was limited to 19 minutes of action, though, and wasn’t very impactful after the first half. Rondo finished with eight points and four assists.

Kelly Olynyk put on a clinic for the C’s, scoring 25 points and dishing seven assists in the loss. Phil Pressey also added nine assists as the Celtics had 34 assists on 44 field goals made. They came into the game ranked 28th in the category with just 19.8 assists per game. Their solid ball movement was a big reason why they were leading throughout most of the game.

The Lakers, however, exemplified great ball movement as well. They recorded 27 assists on 37 field goals made. Whenever the ball was moving, they were efficient. That said, after only turning the ball over once in the first quarter, the team had coughed it up 19 times when the final buzzer sounded. The Celtics, on the other hand, only turned it over seven times.

Because of the turnover disparity, the Celtics took 25 more shots than the Lakers did in the game. However, because of the Lakers impressive three point shooting, especially in the second half, the Celtics couldn’t muster a W. After shooting near 30 percent throughout the last 13 games, the Lakers exploded from downtown and made 60 percent of their threes.

Whether it was luck, impressive ball movement, or both, the Lakers will take it. It’s been awhile since they’ve gotten a break like the one’s they got tonight (the re-jump) and it was good to see the team not falter in the second half.

One thing also rang true in this game: when these two teams play, the records must be thrown away because more often than not it’s going to be a classic and tonight’s game had the fans buzzing and reminiscing of the 2008 and 2010.

The Lakers will now continue their Grammy Road Trip on Sunday as they play a matinee in Toronto.