That was about as lousy of a week as I can recall for the Lakers. We knew the games would be tough to win given the opponents and the locations but we all thought the Lakers would at least put up a fight. There isn't anything wrong with losing in Miami. There isn't anything wrong with losing in Orlando on the second night of a back to back. What is wrong is getting completely blown out in both games and resembling a team that is closer to the Washington Wizards than a potential NBA champion at this point. The shooting completely went awry on the road trip through Florida. The Lakers then returned to friendly confines of Staples Center, found something of an offensive game, only to see their elite level defense completely abandon them. It seems almost impossible at this point for the Lakers to find success on both ends of the floor simultaneously as the leagues best consistently do. With these results, it should not come as a big surprise that this weeks trends are pointing in the wrong direction for the Lakers. The big question is how far have they fallen?
Effective Field Goal %
The three game stretch of Dallas, Miami, and Orlando had to be one of the worst stretches of offense the Lakers have ever played. It was so bad, I am refusing to call it "offense". We will now refer to those three games as the "Lakers best defense on themselves". It wasn't the case of the opposition applying incredible defense so much as the Lakers just not being able to make a shot. The Lakers fall in offensive eFG% would have been worse if the Dallas game had not already been reflected in last weeks trends.
Despite a drop in the rankings, the Lakers were actually pretty decent in defensive eFG%. Two of this weeks opponents (Orlando and Miami) happen to be two of the best 3 teams at shooting efficiently (both are far to the right in the chart above). The Lakers held both teams below 50% or less, below their season averages. Unfortunately the same can not be said of the game against Indiana. Notice where Indiana is on that chart? That would be them in the upper left. The upper left means that they are good on defense but poor on offense. They average around 45.4% eFG% on offense this season. Last night they lit up the Lakers to the tune of 53.2%, a pace that would make them the most efficient shooting team in the league. This resulted in a worse defensive eFG% for the Lakers. Pair it with a worse offense eFG% and it becomes clear how the Lakers dropped from 5th to 9th in net eFG%.
If there is one bright spot for the Lakers this past week it is that they did well to hold onto the ball. The Lakers have struggled all season with turnovers. With Blake out and Morris in, things weren't looking good for the immediate future here. However the Lakers put in an incredible week when it comes to avoiding turnovers. They began by facing one of the best teams in the league at forcing turnovers in Miami. Miami forces turnovers on over 16% of their opponents possessions (upper left in the chart). The Lakers turned it over only 12.5% of the time in that game. They then followed it up with two straight games where the turnover rate was in single digits. The reduced number of turnovers proved huge as it largely offset their inability to make a basket.
Defensively the Lakers will never force many turnovers. It isn't their style of defense. They solidified themselves at the bottom this week. Nothing more to see here... moving on...
The big advantage the Lakers were supposed to have this year is rebounding. While the Lakers are still quite good, 6th overall, they have fallen from their earlier perch in the top two. Can you see that dot way up at the top of the graph? That is Orlando and their flat out rediculous defensive rebounding rate because a certain center grabs any and every rebound in his area. Playing against Orlando was going to have an impact on the offensive rebound rate for the Lakers. The Lakers did well to keep there offense rebound rate right where it was last week.
Where the Lakers were hurt most was on the defensive glass. The Lakers have been a top 5 team all season at collecting the defensive rebound. This week they were pathetic. All three opponents grabbed over 30% of their misses. That means the Lakers had a defensive rebound rate that was below 70%. Look at the chart above and count how many teams aren't grabbing at least 70% of the defensive rebounds. Only one, the Sacramento Kings. That's it. No one else. The Lakers rebounding this week, with a front line of Bynum and Gasol, was week enough to be the equivalent of the 2nd worst team in the association. That is inexcusable for this Lakers team and is the reason they went from a top five to a merely average (14th ranked) team in defensive rebounding.
Free Throws to Field Goal Attempts
There isn't much to say about the free throw rate this week. The Lakers had a similar free throw rate as last week on both sides of the ball. While their own percentages did not change, the rest of the league had quite a bit of movement and so the Lakers actually improved from having the 9th best free throw advantage to 6th best even though they did not do anything different.
Offensive and Defensive Rating
This may be surprising, but the Lakers offense wasn't the problem this week. The horrific shooting certainly gave the impression that the Lakers weren't generating the same efficiency as prior weeks, but what went unnoticed was the Lakers significant reduction in turnovers. The numerous extra possessions helped to provide the Lakers with more shot attempts (even if they did proceed to miss many of them) and as a result they generated the same number of points per possession as they had all season long. If they can somehow find their shooting touch, while taking care of the ball like they did this week, they would quickly move up the rankings here into a top 10 offense.
Defensively, this was a very poor week. It was going to be difficult anyway as Miami and Orlando are currently number one and two offensively. The Lakers failed to hold either of these teams below their average as Miami posted an offensive rating of 115 and Orlando a rating of 109. They then returned home to face an Indiana team with an offensive rating of 102, just below league average. The Pacers utilized Roy Hibbert to score efficiently inside (9-13 FG), and when the Lakers sent a double team the underrated big man was quick to kick the ball out to open shooters, who made the Lakers pay (10-18 3P). This culminated in the Pacers hanging an offensive rating of 111 on Lakers, resulting in an impressive win. The overall result of the week was a 2 point drop in defensive efficiency and the net ranking falling to 14th. The Lakers are now the definition of an "average" team. Certainly not what we expected with a big three of Bryant, Gasol, and Bynum.