Lakers Trends - Identity Now Fully Established

The Lakers played three games since last week's edition of Lakers Trends as they wrapped up their annual Grammys road trip in which they went a respectable 3-3. The week began with a great win over the much hated Boston Celtics in overtime. They followed that with a disappointing loss to the New York Knicks, without Carmelo Anthony or Amar'e Stoudemire, as they became the latest victims of the Lin-sanity movement. The Lakers bounced back with a roller coaster ride-style win over the Toronto Raptors in which they built an 18 point lead, blew all of it, and then went to Kobe "Kloser" Bryant down the stretch, only to have The Black Mamba miss five straight shots before coming to the rescue and saving the Lakers (and himself) in the final minute. There were many ups and downs this week, both between games and within games, however the Lakers statistics in The Four Factors were relatively unchanged, as was their offensive and defensive rating. The Lakers are now over 40% of the way through the season and appear to have established their identity as they have settled in and played at the same level for the last three weeks. Is it enough to win a title? Probably not. It is what it is until Mitch Kupchak pulls off a move to make it something it isn't.

Check out this week's trend update below the jump...

Effective Field Goal %

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The Lakers' shooting took a dive this week. They shot only 40% from the field against Boston, however Boston is the best in the league at defensive field goal percentage so they can certainly be given partial credit for the Lakers' struggles. The Lakers didn't help their cause, though, when they made only 1 of 15 three point attempts, many of which were wide open. They followed that performance by shooting even worse from the field (although they did make 6 threes) against a Knicks team that is not known for elite defense. However, they rebounded and finished the week by shooting a solid 49.4% eFG against Toronto, bolstered by the 10 for 23 shooting from behind the arc.

Defensively, they were great against Boston (42.3% eFG), good against New York (46.1%), but awful against Toronto (51.3%). In what has become a recurring theme, it was a highlight week for opposing point guards. The week began with Rajon Rondo shooting 7 for 13 from the field as the only Celtic to make over half of his attempts; then came Jeremy Lin's 38 point explosion on 13 of 23 shooting, followed by Jose Calderon's career high 30 points on 13 of 18 shooting. Those three point guards, who have not been known for their scoring prowess historically, averaged 27.3 points per game on over 61% shooting against the Lakers' inept point guard rotation. The Lakers played pretty good defense on the other positions and thus kept their overall defensive eFG% right where it was last week.

The Lakers net eFG% fell to 2.2% from 2.9%, leading to a 5 spot drop in the rankings and giving up what ground they gained last week.

Turnover %

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Stop the presses! The Lakers are no longer the worst team in the league in turnover differential. That dubious honor temporarily belongs to the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Lakers still possess the title as the team most incapable of forcing a turnover, but their ability to hold on to the ball much better than the young Thunder squad has put them in a slightly better position overall. The Lakers did force slightly more turnovers this week, primarily in the New York game as that was the only area where Lin struggled (6 turnovers). On offense they only had 11 turnovers against Boston, which is one of the reasons they were able to pull out a victory shooting so poorly. Their status as Not-The-Worst-Team-In Turnovers will probably be short lived though, so we should all take a moment to celebrate it while we can.

Rebound %

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Since asking the question, "where has all the rebounding gone" a few weeks ago, the Lakers have bounced back in a major way here. They have now re-established themselves as a top five rebounding team as should be expected. This week's improvement came solely on the defensive glass. They pulled down 77% of the defensive rebounds against the Celtics. If the Lakers were to pull down 77% of the defensive boards all season they would be the best defensive rebounding team in the league. The Lakers took things one step further though as they corralled over 80% of their opponents' misses against the Knicks and Raptors. It was a great three-game stretch for the Lakers on the boards.

Free Throws to Field Goal Attempts

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The Lakers had much of the same in the free throw department this week. They had a slight decline in getting to line as they attempted 20 free throws against Boston, 23 against New York, and 20 against Toronto. On the season they have averaged 23 attempts. Defensively it was much of the same as they continue to avoid giving their opponents easy points at the charity stripe. This was especially important in the win over the Boston in which the men in green only attempted five free throws all game, including overtime.

Offensive and Defensive Rating

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The Lakers' offensive and defensive ratings are roughly the same as last week. The offensive and defensive ratings were lower than their average against both Boston and New York. However, the game against Toronto saw more scoring as both the offensive and defensive ratings were higher.

The Lakers have now had four straight weeks where their net rating was around +2, meaning they score two more points than the opposition per 100 possessions. They have settled in on an offensive rating around 103-104 and a defensive rating around 101-102. Their identity appears to be fully established. They are a slightly above average team, both offensively and defensively.

They aren't an elite offense for two well known reasons: they can't make threes (last at 29.1%), and they have no offensive production coming from the bench (also last at 20.5 points per game). The Lakers need someone off the bench to come in and be a threat to score, hence the recent discussions revolving around Gilbert Arenas and J.R. Smith.

Defensively the Lakers are between "pretty good" and "elite" at four the five positions with the exception being the point guard position. The biggest culprit of the weak defense at the point guard position has been Derek Fisher as both Steve Blake and Andrew Goudelock have held opposing point guards to slightly less efficient stats. The return of Blake and the corresponding reduction in Fisher's minutes should help the team. Unfortunately this may only have a minor impact. Until a move is made to change the dynamic of the point guard position or the bench, the Lakers will continue to be who we thought they were... a top-heavy three-star team with a supporting cast that could barely go toe-to-toe with the other team from Los Angeles... no not the Clippers. I am talking about the D-Fenders.

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