Three more games are in the books, leaving us with some more Lakers data. The team lost two close winnable games, and their performances in those contests has dropped the team’s outlook. The Lakers are now down to a projected 31 wins based on their remaining schedule and based on how the team has played to this point.
At this point, the Lakers are playing well below a playoff team. They have plenty of time to improve, and have even made some progress these past three games. Despite the team’s DPOE regressing a total of 0.5 over the past three games, LA has improved their per game CPOE by 1.1 points.
Game by Game POE Results
Here is the team’s data game by game so far this season. The columns on the left show the half court and transition created points over expectation (CPOE) for the team.
There’s a lot of red in that chart. The team has had such poor performances in transition that below average performances like their -0.8 transition CPOE against Milwaukee show up green on the chart.
We can also see some significant droughts, both current and recently ended. Sunday’s win against a Denver team missing several key players for most of the game was the team’s first above average offensive performance since Game 10 against Memphis.
It’s been nine games since the team scored at an above average rate in transition. The past seven games have included five games with either a double digit negative transition or half court performance. The Lakers lost to Philadelphia by six and scored 16.1 points less than expected just on half court possessions.
When we break down the offensive performances into more depth we can learn more about how the Lakers have performed and notice some trends.
The Lakers data offensively has more green than you might expect from looking at the total CPOE data. The columns are listed roughly in order of usage.
The Lakers have seen their season best performances from pick and roll ball handlers, spot up shooters, putback scorers, and even scoring in miscellaneous situations.
LA struggled just about everywhere other than from their pick and roll ball handlers against Philadelphia. They scored 27 points from those ball handlers and also added eight points in the post, matching the sum of their past five games in that area. It was a pretty ugly game, and LA very fittingly also added 20 points from putbacks. 17 putback attempts on the game for a team averaging less than seven was quite the anomaly, but kept the Lakers in the game.
The offensive performance against Phoenix was quite strange. Point production didn’t come from the pick and roll, the post, isolation, or putbacks. Players were missing putbacks and not converting off of the pick and roll.
The offense was VERY transition heavy, producing a third of the team’s points. Spot up shooters added 19 points and shot 35% on catch and shoot 3s, which is adequate.
10 points being added from the miscellaneous play type is a bonus, considering the team was scored 1.9 points per game other than this game from that area on the season. Scoring off of deflections and other strange situations wasn’t what Luke drew up, but full court late clock Lonzo drives and inbounds passes for Brook Lopez turn around pull ups are always entertaining.
Sunday’s win gave us the most dominant half court performance from the Lakers all season. Unfortunately the team was -7.3 points vs the expectation on those transition looks. They put up 21 points, but it’s easy to be misled by just looking at points in transition for each team.
The Lakers also hit their 3s, and for good reason. 68% of the team’s catch and shoot 3s were open, and they hit eight of these 16 looks.
One area I was happy with was the team’s off screen actions. Eight possessions and 12 points both tie season highs. Lonzo being run off of flex action is one of many great off-ball ways to utilize him and allow him to play like he did at UCLA. I’m hoping this is a concerted effort rather than a fluke.
One trend that was seen through all three of these games, as well as the game against Phoenix right before the 76ers game, is a lower number of roll man plays. The team is still averaging 20 pick and roll ball handler possessions over those four games, vs 20.3 in the previous 13. But roll men have averaged just five possessions over the past four games compared to 10 the previous 13 games.
The linchpin of this Lakers team has been its defense so far this season. Eight above average performances in the first 14 games helped win games and keep Los Angeles competitive in others. Two below average performances in three contests isn’t exactly keeping that on track, but LA still has the fifth best DPOE through the first 17 games.
The Lakers have some interesting defensive efficiency ranks in different play type areas. They either seem to be top of the line or bottom of the barrel in each area.
Here’s the team’s rank in each area, with play types sorted by frequency:
- Spot Up: 1st
- P&R Ball Handler: 27th
- Transition: 8th
- Isolation: 3rd
- Post Up: 29th
- Cut: 6th
- P&R Roll Man: 15th
- Putbacks: 30th
- Handoff: 7th
- Off Screen: 21st
- Miscellaneous: 21st
These rankings held fairly true over the past three games and were difference makers in some of the games.
LA’s 29th ranked post defense reared it’s head in a big way against the 76ers. Joel Embiid had 15 points on 11 possessions, with Ben Simmons adding a couple points on his one post possession.
Embiid scored three points in three possessions when Bogut was defending him, two points in two possessions when Lopez was his defender, and 10 points in six possessions with Randle as his man.
Embiid was also instrumental on cutting play types, whether he was scoring, passing, or the reason other players were open. Twice the Lakers defense collapsed on Embiid and 76er players smartly cut, giving up open buckets. Embiid was a monster on a few plays taking dump offs and finishing strong at the rim. The 76ers even drew up a smart play here with Embiid making the easy pass to Simmons for a dunk.
This was more about design than Embiid, but it was a nice play nonetheless. Philadelphia wanted to get an open cut to the rim and knew how the Lakers were playing side pick and rolls. They smartly took that information into account and drew up this play with Simmons slipping the handoff screen.
The quick pass to Embiid allows a better angle for the pass to Simmons, and the spacing weak side made it an easy pass for Embiid to make for the basket. We know this was a designed play because of how Simmons slips and immediately is looking at Embiid.
The Suns scored better against the Lakers the third time around, and some of it came back to their types of shots. The Suns had a 5:3 ratio of pull up shots to catch and shoot jumpers their last contest against the Lakers. This time, the ratio was about 1:1 and their ratio for 3-pointers was 5:3 in favor of catch and shoot jumpers, leading to easier shots for Phoenix.
The Suns also shot six for seven on contested 3s. That’s tough luck for LA, but Phoenix shooting one for six on open 3s helps remedy that slightly.
The overall great shooting from Phoenix resulted in above average scoring efficiency spotting up and off of screens. They both executed and converted better than last time around, doing major damage to LA’s DPOE.
The Lakers had a strong defensive performance against a team missing Nikola Jokic and Paul Millsap for significant time, but somehow still got pummeled on putbacks. A team scoring a plurality of their points on putbacks is a unique spectacle.
LA characteristically held Denver under the point expectation shooting on spot up opportunities and in isolation. The Lakers also had their best roll man defensive performance of the season. And as normal, the team didn’t perform well defending putbacks or pick and roll ball handlers.
This third game being above average defensively raises some yellow flags as a potential mirage coming after two bad performances and being against a team missing two of their best players. Or it could be a sign of the team getting right back on track to their solid defense we’ve seen from them most of the season thus far.