Lakers-Magic Game 1: Tempo-Free Boxscore Breakdown

Strike First

This is an odd thing to write about a 40-point, 8-assist, 8-rebound boxscore line, but Kobe Bryant's full-game stats don't do justice to the majesty of his Game One performance. Don't get me wrong; those numbers - which, lest we forget, include a couple blocks, a couple steals and a stunning turnover count of one - are most definitely suitable for framing. But they don't adequately convey how, in the second and third quarters, he disemboweled Orlando's defense, bent the game to his will and turned the fourth quarter into, as they say in the Italian league that Kobe grew up watching, il tempo garbagio.

To put his onslaught into proper relief, let's make like a Predator drone and zoom in on those middle two quarters.

With 8:38 to play in the second, Courtney Lee made a layup to put the Magic ahead 33-28, at which point Phil Jackson called a timeout and put Kobe back on the floor. Kobe would not return to the bench until the completion of the third. That stretch of play comprised 38 possessions for each team, or about 45% of the total game. Here's what happened during those 38 possessions.

 

  • The Lakers outscored the Magic, 54 to 25, finishing the third quarter with an 82-58 lead. In terms of points per possession (PPP), the Lakers outscored the Magic 1.42 to 0.66 in that stretch.
  • Kobe scored 30 points - individually outscoring the entire Orlando team by five points - on only 21 shooting possessions (SPs).
  • On six of the 17 possessions in which he didn't score, Kobe assisted a Laker basket.
  • In other words, on seven out of every 10 possessions during the run when the Lakers put the game away for good, Kobe either scored himself or set up a teammate for a hoop.
  • The field goals that Kobe either scored or assisted on accounted for 44 total points, or over 80% of the Lakers' offense during that crushing second- and third-quarter surge.

 

In hoops analysis, the adverb singlehandedly should be used with the utmost reluctance. And it absolutely shouldn't be used here. Kobe didn't put the Magic away singlehandedly. There were always four other Lakers on the court setting screens, getting him the ball in the right spots and requiring defensive attention from Orlando. But I will say that this was the most crippling one-player offensive barrage I remember seeing in the NBA Finals since 1992, when Michael Jordan hit six threes in a half against Portland (in the famous "Shrug Game").

And when you consider that Orlando was the NBA's best defensive team this year? Damn, baby. Kobe would have been forgiven if he felt like a shrug of his own.

The full Game One numbers are after the jump. I promise you're gonna like 'em.

There were 86 possessions per team last night, which is the second fewest of any Laker game this postseason. Neither team turned the ball over much, and the Lakers extended a lot of their possessions with offensive rebounds, both of which are factors that contributed to the low possession count.

TO Rate FTA/FGA FT% EFG% TS% Off Reb% Def Reb%   PPP  
Orlando 9% 0.38 72 35 42 23 65 0.87
Los Angeles    10% 0.20 83 48 52 35 77 1.16

 

Nobody in this postseason had shut down the Magic offense like the Lakers did last night. In the first three rounds, Orlando's PPP never dipped below 0.96 in any one game. Against Cleveland in the Eastern Conference Finals, it never dipped below 1.08. Last night the Magic offense was 20% worse than its average performance (of 1.09 PPP) in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Orlando's turnover rate was fine - quite good, in fact. And they got to the line frequently enough and made free throws right in line with their regular season rates. Their offensive rebounding was awful, but it's always awful; they only rebounded 24% of their own misses during the first three rounds, so last night was nothing new. The massive, all-encompassing problem was a failure to find the bottom of the net. Game One was the Magic's worst shooting night of the playoffs by far: previous lows in Effective Field Goal and True Shooting percentages were 40% and 43%, respectively.

The Magic did not, as you will undoubtedly hear who knows how many times, "die by the three" last night. They made 35% of their threes in Game One - nothing special, to be sure, but only a few ticks below their regular season average. On two-point attempts, however.... listen, you might want to be sitting down for this.

On two-point attempts, the Magic shot only 28 percent. Twenty-eight. That is just incomprehensibly bad. Some of the misses, as in every game, were bricked open looks, but not all and not even most. The length of the Laker defenders bothered Orlando, and Laker rotations were as crisp and purposeful as I've ever seen them. Raise a glass today to Phil and assistant Brian Shaw for crafting a scheme that took the "O" out of Orlando.

Wandering down to the player level, here are a few stat mines I stepped on and lived to tell about.

  • Seven different Magic players (Dwight Howard, Mickael Pietrus, Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis, Rafer Alston, Jameer Nelson and Lee) had at least nine shooting possessions, but none of them had more than 14. When you're winning that's called offensive balance. When you're losing it's called having no idea where the hell your points are supposed to come from. The only Magic player to exceed one point per SP was garbage man par excellence J.J. Redick.
  • Turk was big in the first quarter (nine points on six SPs), but got taken out of the game thereafter by Trevor Ariza. In the crucial second and third periods, he had only two points on three SPs.
  • Doug Collins, listen up: this is why your "points per shot attempt" is a junk stat. Howard finished with 12 points on six field goal attempts. Two points per shot = TASTY EFFICIENCY, no? Well, no. Howard used up eight other possessions to get to the line, where he made 10 of 16 free throws. So you need to understand that he actually used a total of 14 possessions to get his 12 points. This isn't a difficult concept. Please take three minutes to learn it so we don't have to listen to your "one point per shot" speech next season. Also your son annoyed me when he played at Duke.
  • How about the quiet resurrection of Luke Walton?  After going scoreless in the middle two games against Denver, he scored four points on four SPs in Game Five, 10-on-8 in Game Six and 9-on-6 last night. Not shabby at all, and he's also contributing with some good dishing and surprisingly competent D.
  • Guess who was the only Laker to post a negative plus/minus last night. Seriously, take a guess. If you said anyone other than Sasha Vujacic, take a lap.
  • And then take three more laps.

One last note: Pau went about 18 minutes, from the end of the first quarter until there were about eight minutes left in the third, without taking a shot. I realize there were extenuating circumstances, as Kobe was busy removing Orlando's intestinal tract, but let's not start doing that thing again where we forget that Pau should get the ball. Good things happen for the Lakers when he touches it. That's all I'm saying.

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