Lakers Trends - Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

NEW ORLEANS, LA - MARCH 14: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers drives the ball up the court against the New Orleans Hornets at the New Orleans Arena on March 14, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Lakers defeated the Hornets 107-101. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

This week the Lakers did the same thing they have done numerous times before. They took two steps forward and then one step back. Rarely does a week go by where the Lakers are moving solely in the right direction. Recently they have played much better, only to fall flat on their faces in the games that were almost sure to be wins. It was more of the same this week.

The Lakers beat a surging Memphis team in a double overtime thriller on Tuesday, overcame dead legs the next night with another overtime win against New Orleans, and then beat a solid Minnesota team on the road Friday. The win streak and the acquisition of Ramon Sessions had the fan base buzzing. Surely playing within the friendly confines of Staples Center against a Utah team missing its second best player was an automatic victory, no? Unfortunately not for these Lakers. They somehow managed to play one of the worst games of the year and let one of the easier games of the season slip away. But really, what more should we expect from a team that can beat Miami but then lose to Detroit and Washington? I guess there are two good things that can be taken away from this trend though.

  1. Utah, Detroit, and Washington won't be in the playoffs
  2. Two steps forward and one step back still means progress.

To see the updated trend charts, continue below the jump.

Effective Field Goal %

031912EFG031912EFGTable

The Lakers moved in the wrong direction here. Offensively they were right on their season average, but defensively they were not their usual stingy selves. The game impacting this change the most was against New Orleans where the weary Lakers allowed the Hornets to shoot a 53.5% eFG. They also allowed Utah, a below average team in shooting efficiency, to shoot 48.4% eFG. Against Memphis the Lakers were right on their average and were actually quite good against the Timberwolves, holding them to 42.4% eFG.

Offensively the Lakers were great against Memphis (53.0% eFG), but merely average the rest of the week. They are still ranked 7th in net shooting efficiency and looking at the chart it appears to be a position they have settled into quite comfortably with a decent gap between the teams both ahead and behind them.

Turnover %

031912TOV031912TOVTable

Another week goes by where the Lakers have yet to win the turnover battle. Fortunately for the purple and gold they have become accustomed to overcoming this deficit while still producing wins. Last night was a different story though as the Lakers turned the ball over on one out of every five possessions and it ultimately led to the disappointing loss. The Lakers continue to be the worst team in the league in the turnover battle, and it isn't even close.

Rebound %

031912REB031912REBTable

The Lakers were the 5th best team in rebounding entering the week. They went up against three slightly above average teams on the glass (New Orleans, Minnesota, and Memphis) and one very good team (Utah). It was a test of might on the boards all week long and the results were disappointing. The Lakers lost the battle on the boards in 3 of the 4 games. Their only win on the glass was against New Orleans and the Lakers needed every rebound to pull out the victory against the much smaller Hornets squad. As a result, the Lakers have fallen two spots and are now ranked 7th in net rebounding rate.

Free Throws to Field Goal Attempts

031912FT031912FTTable

If there is any major concern for this Lakers offense going forward, this is it. It isn't that the Lakers are bad at getting to the line. Actually it is quite the opposite. They are good, perhaps too good. The schemes on offense (pounding the ball inside) and defense (contest without fouling) will always have the Lakers as one of the teams with the biggest free throw advantage. However, the Lakers have taken it to an extreme lately. The game last night marked the 11th straight game in which the Lakers had a free throw advantage. Perhaps even more shocking is the fact that they had a 162-72 free throw advantage over the last 5 gives, two of which were on the road. They have been getting over twice the number of free throw attempts as their opposition, yet these games still went into overtime twice and a third contest resulted in a loss. If the Lakers ever regress back to a more normal free throw advantage (say 25% more attempts than their opposition instead of 125%), the results could be more losses than wins.

Offensive and Defensive Rating

031912RTG031912RTGTable

After the 3-1 week, the Lakers really are right back where they started. They won a couple of close road games before losing at home. A near 180-degree turnaround from the majority of the season where home wins were easy but road wins were tough to come by. They struggled on the glass but more than made up for it with a huge free throw advantage.

The Lakers' offense put up three straight games with an offensive rating above 105, before falling flat against Utah with only a 95. Defensively they produced offensive ratings of 102 against Memphis and 100 against New Orleans, Minnesota, and Utah, all in line with their season average of 101.4. Their net rating was unchanged but they did move up three spots as a few of the teams near them fell a little this week.

The Lakers possess a top 10 defense (currently 9th) and an average offense (currently 17th). While the Lakers have remained relatively stagnant the last few weeks, that could easily change going forward. The recent acquisition of Ramon Sessions provides a significant improvement on both ends of the floor relative to longtime Lakers point guard Derek Fisher. Hopefully his impact will result in positive trends on both sides of the ball as the Lakers gear up for the final run before the playoffs.

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