It’s been… a while since we’ve had a Lakers data report. If you wish to see the data for any specific game, you can always take a look at the Laker Game Data spreadsheet I use to obtain the information used in these reports.
But new year, new Cranjis. LA finished their 2017 year with a loss to the Houston Rockets.
The Lakers scored their highest points per possession since six games ago, when they also faced the Rockets. The suddenly efficient transition offense had another good game, and the half court offense had the highest CPOE since November 29th against the Warriors.
I wrote previously about the woes LA was facing in their transition game. The major issue I identified in that piece was the turnovers LA was committing on their transition opportunities. At that point they were committing turnovers on 18.1% of their fast break possessions. That decreased slightly to 16.7% up until the most recent four game stretch.
During those four games, LA has turned their far below average transition offense into one that’d have the third best transition CPOE on the year. A big part of that has been limiting turnovers to a mere 6% of their possessions.
What else has changed? 63% of the shots the Lakers are taking in transition are 3-pointers over that recent stretch, compared to 28% over the first 31 games (and are hitting at about the same rate). They’re getting to the line about 5% points less, and the team’s adjusted field goal percentage has gone up just 3%. These are playing a role, but the turnovers have been the big difference.
28% of the team’s transition turnovers at the time of my article were pass aheads. One of their turnovers in the most recent four-game stretch was due to pass ahead errors, while 23% of the team’s transition possessions were due to pass aheads and on those chances the Lakers scored 1.316 PPP (25 points in 19 possessions) compared to 1.123 PPP on their other chances. The team has been accurate on their passes and have converted well on those possessions.
The Lakers had games with 3, 4, 4, 3, 4, and 1 post possession prior to their eight possession, 11 point post game against Houston. This seemed a little random, especially without Lopez playing. What was more impressive was that it was done against the defense with the third best post DPOE on the season.
It wasn’t expected, but that +4 in this category definitely helps. This high usage was perhaps a result of a deterioration of the team’s half court set usage, in which case we may see more moving forward until Lonzo returns.
Putbacks had not been a big part of the Lakers offense before the most recent three game stretch, but since then the team has doubled their usage of these possessions and scored a combined 40 points in three games on 33 possessions. Julius Randle on more minutes has played a role here, as he’s had 9 of these 33 possessions on his own over the past three games. With more of a sustained presence from Randle moving forward we may see more of these kinds of possessions over the rest of the season. It’s easy offense and may help keep opposing teams from getting out into transition as well as they hang back to rebound rather than getting out to run.
The Lakers used to be a top ten defense. Those days are gone, and it has a TON to do with the past four games. Before that stretch, the Lakers were averaging a -1.58 DPOE per game. That’d be 7th right now among all teams.
Over the last 4 games they’ve had a DPOE of +15.58 per game. That’s otherworldly poor. For reference, the Kings are last place on the year at +3.5 per game. That’s more than 4 times worse than last place. Not 4 points. 4 times.
Houston seemingly had their way against the Laker isolation defense. But we have to remember that it was Chris Paul and James Harden (who’s having the year of all years in iso) who accounted for those 22 possessions. When you adjust for that, Houston scored just 3 points more than they’d be expected to score, not 10. The specific Laker defenders involved in the plays they’d be expected to give up 22.7 points in general if they were to face 22 possessions.
So all things considered, Houston scored more than we’d hope, but the +10 DPOE isn’t as bad as it realistically was.
Pick and Roll
The Rockets had success from their pick and roll ball handlers throughout the game, amassing a +6 DPOE on the Laker defense. The spread floor with lots of shooters made helping tough. The Rockets seemingly found open corner 3s over and over in the fourth quarter.
Houston also did well by keeping their dribble alive after the screen and being patient. There were times they’d end up with open jumpers as the Laker defense would try to switch back after the big helped. There were other times LA would just switch and the ball handler would attack immediately or would dribble back out and then iso against the mismatch. These possessions also opened up some dump offs to roll men.