The Lakers finally were given a gift from the basketball scheduling gods this week as they were provided with two days off, twice in the same week. In what has been, and will continue to be, a very packed schedule with no time to practice, the Lakers really needed a few days off to regroup. The results of the past week were something of a roller coaster ride. It began with the Lakers finally beating their Staples Center roommates after losing the three previous meetings this year (two in the preseason). The Lakers then hit the road with newfound confidence, including a more assertive Pau Gasol. Their next game was supposed to be a cake walk. They played a Bucks team that was missing two of its best players and did not have a main rotation player over 6'10" to defend the Lakers bigs. This had one SS&R scribe saying there was "No Reason to Fear the Deer". The Lakers then fell flat on their faces. They were running out of excuses and the following night they had to play a much improved Timberwolves team which Vegas viewed as the favorite. Surprisingly, the Lakers finally had a dominant offensive performance from each of their big three at the same time, leading the Lakers to a rare road win. The roller coaster finished up on the week, but not everything ended on a high note. The big question this week is what happened to the rebounding?
Check out this week's trend update below the jump...
Effective Field Goal %
The Lakers' shooting had a nice rebound this week. They had an effective field goal percentage of roughly 55% in their two wins against the Clippers and Timberwolves. In their only loss this week, they did manage to shoot a respectable 47.6% eFG, approximately league average. The big reason for the improvement was the Lakers beginning to find their touch from three-point range. They combined to make 22 of 54 attempts on the week, good for 40.7%. As a result, the Lakers have again become an above-average team, even if only slightly, at shooting the ball.
Defensively for the week, the Lakers performed similar to their full season average. They held the Clippers to a fairly average 47.1% eFG. Milwaukee then torched the Lakers to the tune of 53.1%, handing the Lakers an upset loss at the same time. Last night the Lakers flipped the script and held Minnesota to only 40.9% and hung on to win in an upset of their own. In the end the Lakers improved their shooting advantage and moved up to 8th best in the league in net eFG%.
Offensively, the Lakers did not have any major change in turnovers. They played all three games with a turnover rate in line with their season long average. Defensively, the Lakers were awful at forcing turnovers. They forced 12 turnovers against the Clippers, 8 against the Bucks, and then only 4 against the Timberwolves. Perhaps most astonishing, the opposing team's point guards (Chris Paul, Brandon Jennings, and Ricky Rubio) combined for 27 assists and only 1 turnover. (Fantasy basketball tip: Play any point guard on your roster when they play the Lakers). These three players are all good, and in Paul's case great, point guards. However, the Lakers must improve at forcing turnovers. The fact that they are dead last in the league is not a huge surprise. What is shocking is just how far behind they are from the 29th ranked team in San Antonio.
What happened to the Lakers' rebounding? They began the season as a good rebounding team without Bynum. Then when Bynum returned, they were rebounding at a rate that would have made them the best in the league (see the second point on their trend path). Since then they have steadily worked back down towards mediocrity. How can a team featuring both Bynum and Gasol be only an average rebounding team?
The Lakers did improve on the offensive glass this week, primarily because of the game against Milwaukee. The Bucks spent most of the game with 6'10" Drew Gooden trying to guard Andrew Bynum, and 6'8" Luc Richard Mbah a Moute trying to guard Pau Gasol, who pulled down 7 offensive rebounds over the much smaller defender, helping the Lakers grab 35% of their missed shots.
Defensively the Lakers were unbelievably bad. While the undersized Bucks struggled on the glass, the Clippers and Timberwolves nearly pulled out victories despite shooting 42% and 38% from the field respectively. Both the Clippers and the Timberwolves grabbed offensive rebounds on 40% of their misses, leading to both teams taking over 20 more field goal attempts than the Lakers. It is hard to fathom how such a big front line with two very capable rebounders could now be a team that has a below league average defensive rebound rate. Yes, that is correct. The Lakers are now 18th in the league in defensive rebounding. This was supposed to be a strong suit of the Lakers and was one reason their defense was so strong at the start of the season.
Free Throws to Field Goal Attempts
Again there isn't much to say with regard to free throw rate this week. The Lakers continue to slightly improve as the season goes on. Their ability to get to the line has not changed much but they are consistently improving when it comes to keeping the opposition off of it.
Offensive and Defensive Rating
The Lakers had a big shift from an offensive team to a defensive team this week. The newfound shooting helped propel the Lakers up five spots to 13th in the league in offensive efficiency. Defensively, however, they fell 6 spots to number 12. The defense is elite no longer. It isn't that the opposition is lighting them up, it is that when they are missing the Lakers are constantly giving them second and third attempts each possession. The end result is that the Lakers are basically an average offensive and defensive team so far this season. It shouldn't then come as a surprise to see them 14th in the overall net efficiency rankings.
While the ride was filled with very high "Highs" (beating the Clippers and the big three combining for 84 points) and a very low "Low" (the loss to a undersized Milwaukee team playing on the second night of a back-to-back without two of its best players), there are some very positive signs for the Lakers. They appear to be regaining their shooting touch with both Derek Fisher and Kobe Bryant beginning to make shots. Mike Brown continues to experiment with line-ups to see what works and has discovered that Andrew Goudelock can play the point guard spot and is a much needed threat on the perimeter. The offense is beginning to come around and is trending in the right direction. Now if only the Lakers could get back to the basics and rebound the ball they might actually win consecutive games again.