The Lakers remind me of my two-year-old son and an ice cream sundae. An ice cream sundae begins with two big scoops of ice cream as the foundation (Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum) covered with some chocolate fudge (Kobe Bryant). Some people would stop there, and while it would be a delicious treat, it isn't a proper sundae. No, a proper sundae requires a couple more ingredients. You must have some nuts (Metta World Peace), whipped cream (our bench), and finally the cherry on top. The Lakers have been waiting a while for that cherry and it finally came in the form of Ramon Sessions. The Lakers' sundae was complete.
So where does my son come into play? It feels like half the time I give my son a sundae he somehow manages to drop it or spill it. Sure the components of a perfectly good sundae are still there, but as it lies on the floor melting, it is no longer the delicious snack that he was so excited to consume. These Lakers are much the same. They have the proper ingredients to be a wonderful product, one that would make any fan eager and excited as a two-year-old about to dive into a sundae, but too often their actual performance ends up as a disappointing puddle of chocolate and vanilla melting on the floor.
This week was more of the same. The Lakers nation was excited about the acquisition of Sessions and the impact he would have on the offense. The phrase "Title Contenders" was trending quickly on SS&R. A thorough dismantling of the Mavericks followed by a win over Portland (in which our cherry dropped 20 points and 11 assists) had Lakers fans everywhere excited and wanting more. Then without notice the Lakers dropped the sundae on the floor last night and ruined the excitement for many with their loss to the Grizzlies.
While we didn't get to fully consume the sundae, we did get a taste of something promising. The offense improved significantly this week, which has been the biggest problem for the Lakers this year, but the defense unfortunately regressed. Hopefully the Lakers, like my two-year-old, will improve at not dropping the sundae over time and give us the delicious dessert we all are so eager eat.Effective Field Goal %
The impact of Ramon Sessions on offense has been huge. He has not only gotten to the rim for easy shots, but he has set up others with easy looks at the basket. The result was a huge increase in shooting percentage this week, with the Lakers finishing with an eFG% above 50% in three of the four games. If they repeat the same offensive performance this week then they would finally be in the top 10 in eFG%, a rank they have not yet achieved this season.
Defensively, they weren't good by any stretch. They kept Dallas and Portland to under 49%, but both shot better than the Lakers allow on average. They were especially awful against Houston and Memphis who each shot over 54%. The Lakers' two wins and two losses this week can be directly tied to their defense and whether or not they forced the opposition to miss.
The Lakers pulled off a miracle this week. They actually won the turnover battle in a game, beating the Rockets 14 to 17 in turnovers. I know it doesn't seem like much, but had the Lakers lost the turnover battle that game they would hold the franchise record for most consecutive games losing the turnover battle. Instead, they now own a share of the record (13 games) with the 2004-2005 Lakers.
The Lakers showed improvements on the glass this week but it was with mixed results. They were beat on the boards in Houston and against Memphis and lost both games. On the other hand, they were extremely dominant against Dallas and Portland (allowing both teams to grab only 15% of their missed field goal attempts) and thus won both games. Sometimes the game of basketball can be quite simple. Make shots and rebound and you'll win the game.
Free Throws to Field Goal Attempts
The Lakers continue to enjoy one of the biggest free throw advantages in the league. They actually shot fewer free throws than Houston and Dallas which is a rarity for this squad. The free throw advantage was bolstered however by last night's 30 to 10 advantage at the line. Unfortunately, 20 extra attempts was still not enough to win the game at home.
Offensive and Defensive Rating
If there is any place that shows the value of Sessions, it is here. The Lakers' offense improved to finally be above league average with him at the helm. The offensive ratings this week were 115 (Houston), 124 (Dallas), 113 (Portland), and 110 (Memphis). Just look at those numbers and then take a look at the chart above where the Oklahoma City Thunder (the league's best offense) has averaged a rating of 110 on the season. Put another way, the offense exhibited in the last four games would make the Lakers a top offensive team in the league.
So how does a team with such a powerful offense only go two and two on the week? They give up defensive ratings of 118 (Houston) and 117 (Memphis) in the two losses and 106 in both wins. The four-game average defensive rating is around 112 which would put the Lakers dead last defensively. It is inexcusable for a Mike Brown-coached team with two towers like Bynum and Gasol to be the equivalent of the worst defensive team in the association.
If the Lakers can correct the defensive issues that emerged this week and get back to a top 10 defense, they will be in great shape, especially if the offense continues to be near league-leading with Sessions. It looks like Sessions is the cherry that completes the sundae; now we can not drop it on the floor quite as often? Maybe then we can enjoy the taste of it.