This was LA’s highest CPOE performance on the year, scoring 128 points when they’d be only expected to score 112.5. We’ll focus mostly on the offense today, because there was a lot of good that came out of this game.
LA went OFF in transition. Here’s their shot chart:
They had some errors, but the issues that certain players with hyphens in their name were minimal and the team was knocking down shots.
This was a special transition performance, but the general transition offense has been improving consistently. LA started off the year looking completely inept in transition, even when they had a 1-2 man advantage. Here is their 10 game rolling transition CPOE:
LA has consistently improved since their dreadful start. There were some bumps along the way, but the trend is clear.
The Lakers are at an interesting point in the year. For the first time since their initial plummet, their 10 game rolling average is at 0.0. The transition offense is still 24th in points per possession on the year, but if the team’s efficiency ascent continues they’ll consistently be having above average transition games and that rank will rise.
Today’s the day. Or yesterday was, I guess. LA had their best performance for off screen opportunities on the year, and, to me, their most encouraging.
It wasn’t their most points or their best CPOE on that play type. It wasn’t even a top five game in terms of volume of possessions. But it was their best game in terms of creativity and design of sets, which plays a big role on their success.
Play 1: Cross Punch Flare
Here’s the first play we’ll look at. Lonzo passes to Julius and then posts his man up just inside the 3-point line and catches the ball at the 3-point line. Lopez walks over toward the opposite block.
Lopez then sets a cross screen for Ingram, who receives the post feed from Lonzo. Randle then sets a flare screen for KCP, who receives the pass from Ingram looking to catch and shoot from 3. And Lopez clears out to the opposite side of the court to space out for 3.
Here’s how the play worked in real life:
It’s a great play design because it plays off of the Lakers’ weaknesses and how teams usually defend LA and converts the weaknesses into strengths.
Lopez is a big body that can (or should be able to) set screens well, so he’s setting a cross screen. It’s a two position gap from Lopez to Ingram, so a switch would allow LA to exploit the defense with mismatches. Lopez then clears out for 3, which if there’s no switch will remove rim protection and allow Ingram to have some privacy in the post, which isn’t something you want if you’re the defense.
Thankfully for them, Randle isn’t a threat from the perimeter, so he makes the perfect player to help off of. And that’s what the Lakers are planning on. If Randle’s man lets himself sag into the paint, Randle setting a flare screen for KCP will result in a wide open 3-point opportunity (if the screen is set well (it is this time)). And Ingram is a good size to be able to pass out from the post if Randle’s man helps down hard on the post. It’s a perfect play design.
This is an A+ play design where every player is moving and every player is a threat. It’ll get open 3s and also help isolate Ingram in the post if defenses catch onto the play and play it for the flare and completely leave Ingram down low.
Play 2: Fist Detroit
This play is music to my ears. It truly is brilliantly designed. Every player is moving, and all five players are working together. When I talk about synergistic movement and action, this is a great example of that.
The roll man (5) will need to be tagged by a help defender unless there’s a switch (leading to mismatches LA can attack) or the big man plays drop coverage, which allows the Laker point guard (1) to get into the paint going downhill. Any sort of hard hedge or blitz (double) of the ball handler will necessitate that help coming over.
So who is helping to stop the roll man (5 in the diagram)? It’d be 4’s defender. When he steps over to help, he’s out of place to help 2’s defender guard 2 on the “Detroit” action flare screen. 3 drops to the corner, dragging his man down into the corner.
This is the result:
Atlanta ends up with two men on Ennis, who handles the pressure well. Two players there means that Kuzma’s defender needs to help tag Nance to prevent an easy dunk. Ingram drops to the corner, dragging his man down. And KCP runs perfectly off of the flare screen and is wide open. He misses the shot, but this is an A+ play and the best one I’ve seen from the Lakers all season in terms of play design.
This is another play from the same game that’s similar in terms of alignment and the method of attack. The main (decoy) attack is putting pressure on the defense to stop Lonzo and Nance. Kuzma’s man drops in to help out, leaving Clarkson wide open when Kuz sets the Detroit flare screen.
In both scenarios, that pick and roll is critical. Without that initial misdirection pressure on the defense, the flare screen is far easier to defend. Sell out on the flare (which teams will start doing once the play is scouted) and LA will still have a real threat with the pick and roll and roll man. This is the type of play that “occupies the help defense” if they play the flare. It’s something that both plays have in common.
If the Lakers continue using these types of plays, they’ll be successful on their off screen opportunities and score better in their pick and roll plays. Not surprisingly, the team’s pick and roll ball handler scoring CPOE of +7.3 was their best CPOE performance on the season. That’s what weak side motion can do.
LA had their worst 6-game defensive stretch of the year, but have followed it up by an above average defensive performance and now an average defensive performance since Lonzo’s return. Lopez has also helped. The team has rotated better and seems to be playing much harder.
Atlanta shot 46% (6/13) on guarded 3s this game and 3/9 on open ones when catching and shooting.
Schröder certainly scored well in this game, putting up 27 of Atlanta’s 112. But how much more efficient was he than to be expected? Here’s his player profile from my interactive data spreadsheet for the full season before the game in Los Angeles.
And here is how he performed against LA. Lots of pick and roll, just like normal. Tons of efficiency there, and even more than he usually has in his highest CPOE area on the season.
His overall usage was typical, and his 1.1 CPOE on the game is higher than his average but within an expected normal range. It was a good game from a good player, but it wasn’t anywhere near enough.
Atlanta has been the team most underperforming their play in terms of their record going into Sunday’s game. They’ve graded out better than LA on the year, but LA’s decisive win Sunday will hopefully get LA playing less like the 22 win team LA had been playing like going into Sunday. It’s all up from here, and LA is trending in the right direction in several key areas. The Lakers might be fun again.