Well that was fun while it lasted. The Lakers were playing like a 40 win team for a few weeks, but they’ve fallen back down to earth lately. A brutal loss to a weakened Clippers team leaves us with a numb and bitter feeling. LA has had the 3rd easiest schedule so far this season according to POE, and they have the 3rd hardest remaining schedule over the rest of the season.
That dangerous road starts soon with a home matchup against the Warriors, who probably aren’t happy campers after a surprising loss to the Kings. But before we get to Golden State, there’s some Lakers data from the loss to look at, and some to feel okay about.
The lineups used in the Lakers game weren’t ideal, but the overall results on the court for the game offensively were better than normal. That’s not to say the rotations were the right moves. I disagree with the groupings that Luke threw on the court. But even those lesser groups performed like an average NBA offense, which is better than most games.
LA had their third above average half court performance in four games. A solid performance in isolation and around the rim never hurts.
Another key was the 13 points Los Angeles added on their 12 off screen possessions, both season highs. Numerous quick high pin down screens, like this one, were run for KCP added to this effort.
Luke may not be making us happy at all with his rotations, but I see a trend of increased off screen usage on the below chart, which shows the volume of off screen possessions chronologically from game 1 against the Clippers to game 20 against the Clippers.
For comparison, here’s how the Lakers have performed on the season as a whole. About half a dozen points below average per game.
You’ll notice that one area LA has used the least but performed the best in are their off screen possessions. The team also coincidentally has a team full of guards who have excelled operating off of screens in previous seasons, as we’ve discussed before. And the times, they are a changin’.
Over the past six games the Lakers have run more off screen possessions than isolation, roll man possessions, or post ups. Over that sample of games the Lakers are utilizing these types of possessions at the seventh highest rate in the NBA, compared to 18th on the season.
Pick and Roll Ball Handler
The Lakers played really poor defense against pick and roll ball handlers. But what does that mean? Some context will help.
Here is the shot chart for the Clippers’ offense in those same situations from this same game.
10 of 22 possessions at the rim. 45%. The league average is 32%. The Lakers’ average defensively is 59% of the pick and roll possessions (including fouls) they’ve faced on the season to be at the rim.
Teams will make and miss shots on any given day no matter where they’re being taken, but if you’re allowing possessions at the rim compared to forcing mid range pull ups, it’s not a great long term formula. This is a large part of why the Lakers have the seventh worst defensive efficiency against these kinds of possessions.
LA had similar issues defending handoffs against the Clippers.
And it wasn’t one specific way that was breaking down the LA defense and letting the Clippers get to the rim. Lonzo getting caught reaching, Hart turning his head to look for the screen and getting beat on a rejection, Kuzma not rotating over in time, Lopez completely misreading what’s happening and not making any effort to contain, and big-big screens that were twisted all resulted in shots at the rim.
This was an uncharacteristically poor outing from a normally stingy Lakers’ defense. Cleaning up the execution and mental errors will be key if LA is to put up a fight against the Warriors.