Just like the team’s record and performance on the court, the numbers through this recent stretch have generally been trending upward. Let’s take a look at some Lakers data from the team’s 5-point win against Chicago on Friday.
The Lakers won the areas they were expected to win.
On my last preview podcast I took a look at how the Lakers matched up with the Bulls based on their data so far this season. When comparing the efficiency of both teams by play type, there were three areas where the Lakers had a clear advantage: transition, in the post, and on putbacks. And the advantage in transition was HUGE against the worst transition defense in the league.
And that’s where they dominated. LA struggled off of screens, spotting up, and in isolation, as expected. But they were able to pull this game out through dominating in the areas they had the advantage.
The Lakers had 20 points from the post, their highest output on the season. If you had a sneaky suspicion that Brook playing against his brother had something to do with this you’d be correct. But, intentionally or not, it was also a matchup against one of the worst post defenders in the NBA and one of the few areas the Lakers matched up well against Chicago. It worked out to be a good strategy move and also one of those “go get em” games for Brook against his brother.
Spot Up Shooting
Some areas of LA’s performance have increased as the season has gone on, but their spot up shooting has taken a nosedive. Here is a 10-game rolling average chart showing the spot up shooting game CPOE data.
Anything above zero is a stretch of 10 games where the team was shooting above average on average.
One of the areas the Lakers have trended in the right direction on is transition. Starting with game 15 against Philadelphia, LA has been trending in the right direction. But only recently have they been able to finally turn those 23 transition possessions per game into above average transition scoring.
This will be a key moving forward. LA scoring a lot in transition inefficiency was still better offense than their half court offense. If they can lead the league in transition frequency and also do so efficiently, that’s suddenly a big difference maker. This game’s 8.8 points of scoring above average is a great showing of what that can do and how it can overcome horrific half court offense (84 points per 100 possessions in the half court!).
The only two areas where Chicago matched up well against LA were in the post and in transition. They were 4 points above average in transition, but the Lakers were sound in so many other areas (including the post) that it wasn’t enough. LA made the third worst scheme by my scheme ratings look like they had the third worst scheme.
I saw some individuals on Twitter ripping into Randle for this play, but it was really just Chicago countering LA’s big to big switching perfectly. Randle is anticipating Markkanen running off of the screen set to run to the top of the key (right by Kuz), just like Chicago had done on their previous play to get an open shot for Holiday after some screen the screener action (a cross screen followed by a down screen).
But Markkanen didn’t run off of the screen. He didn’t go near Kuz. In fact, the screen is set on Kuzma, not Randle. Chicago knew LA was going to switch that, and had Markkanen fade out and had the screener look to screen Kuzma rather than Randle in order to get an open shot. Randle is anticipating just having to watch the screener while Kuzma takes care of Lauri. Kuzma is being screener. Chicago gets an knocks down an open shot (they were 6/6 on open 3s for the day).
And on this play, Randle isn’t the most at fault either. On a big/big screen, LA had been switching. So normally, this would be an automatic switch and Brook would be on Markkanen.
But on this play, notice how Robin both sets the ball screen and sets the flare screen. This is a great adjustment by Chicago, who saw a couple plays previously that LA was having Lopez drop off on ball screens at that wing. They knew that Lopez would stick with Grant until the guard recovered, because LA doesn’t want Lopez switching onto that but also needs to have him contain the ball handler and prevent him from getting to the rim.
On this play, notice how Grant (the ball handler) never even tries to turn the corner and isn’t even looking at the rim. He’s dribbling to the corner on this called play, trying to drag Lopez along as much as he can, waiting for the flare to be set.
So Randle is left fighting through the screen a half second late because he normally would just need to yell “switch” and his responsibility would be Robin Lopez. Once he realizes the switch isn’t happening, he does everything he can to fight through the screen and is actually able to contest the shot well.
So to summarize, the “lazy” or “slow” defense by Randle was due to a well-designed counter by Hoiberg that took advantage of the way LA had been defending, putting Randle at a disadvantaged position and forcing him to need to go outside the normal defensive gameplan to play good defense on the play. And he did a great job once he realized it.
LA completely shut the second worst offense in the league down in this game, which was expected. Where Chicago was able to make its CPOE look a little better was with several miscellaneous possessions. Chicago got 2 free throw points on a foul of a slipping player who didn’t have the ball yet, and 6 points from two 3-pointers off of inbounds passes. But other than that, the Lakers did what they were supposed to do.
In Other News: Gary Payton II Had a Triple Double
My first reaction:
And then I looked at the film. Here are my notes:
- Payton needs to work on his post entries. He threw the ball straight out of bounds three separate times. His angles of entry were bad on all three. That’s a simple fix, but one that if not addressed can be costly due to the high probability of turnovers on those kinds of bad entry passes.
- The South Bay Lakers did a nice job using Payton as a cutter. Their shooting and spacing is generally very good, and they used well executed weak side UCLA cuts away from the primary action to catch the defense off-guard and get Payton four different wide open shots at the rim.
- Payton was 0/2 on open catch and shoot 3-pointers, but was able to knock one down off the dribble after the defense went under a screen and then let watched him take the 3. If he can knock that shot down with some consistency it’ll open up a lot more in his pick and roll game, because right now defenses can go under screens and shut down his pick and roll game pretty easily the same way we saw defenses guard Lonzo earlier in the year.
- The defense wasn’t pretty. On his six defensive possessions as the primary defender:
- He fell asleep on a flare screen and didn’t switch like the SB Lakers had been, leaving a shooter wide open
- GP2 was beaten badly defending a pick and roll
- He tried to pick off a pass to the corner when he was the wing defender that he had no chance intercepting, leaving himself out of position to defend his own man (who knocked down the 3)
- Payton tried to jump a pass to his man and was blown by, but his length showed up and he was able to back tip the ball away and force a turnover
- His man blew by him after he reached in and got a layup because of it
- He tried to jump the pass to his man and was blown by because of it
So while he did have a triple double, and facilitated and rebounded well, he’s still been the same player with the same faults that we saw at Oregon State, in the G-League, and in limited time with the parent Lakers team.