It is no secret that defense has been an ongoing issue for the Lakers this season.
Even with the recent Tyson Chandler signing, the combination of the team’s roster construction and their general tendency to miscommunicate have combined to create the 22nd-ranked defensive rating (111.9 points allowed per 100 possessions) in the league. Fortunately, not all is doom and gloom.
The Lakers have won three of their last four games, and actually have done a rather solid job defending in the half court.
On the season, the Lakers have the 13th-best half-court defense in the league, as they are allowing only 92.3 points per 100 half-court plays, according to Cleaning the Glass.
Where the team has severely struggled through eleven games has been defending in transition, an area Luke Walton and his staff have begun making a point of emphasis during team practices.
“We have our staples on defense and that’s the main one. The rest of our defense doesn’t matter if we don’t get back," Walton told reporters this week.
So far on the season, the Lakers have indeed struggled to get back. As of this article they are currently 27th in the league in opponent’s transition efficiency, allowing 138.5 points per 100 transition plays.
Ironically the purple and gold are currently tops in the league in transition frequency, yet with a quickened pace also comes a higher probability of turning the ball over, which inversely gives the opposition a more efficient chance on the other end.
If the Lakers hope to win their next contest, taking care of the ball will be key.
The team will likely have their hands full and their foot speed tested in their matchup with the surprising 7-5 Sacramento Kings — who just so happen to be second behind the Lakers in transition frequency.
The Kings have been a running and gunning dynamo through their first twelve games. Led by sophomore point guard De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento has exceeded nearly everyone’s expectations for the team heading into the season.
With simple core values that revolve around running every chance they get and making threes (fourth in 3-point percentage in the NBA), teams have had fits keeping up with the athletic young players the team deploys nightly.
Although often on the butt end of jokes in recent years, Walton seems to recognize the Kings’ current strong play and the necessity to clip their chances in transition.
“They’re really fast. We have to do a helluva job on our transition defense. We did a nice job against Minnesota but this team is taking it to a whole ‘nother level.”
What may sound like hyperbole is genuinely the case in regards to the Kings’ transition play, but arguably what has been more impressive than their blistering pace has been their efficiency converting their opportunities while on the run.
The Kings currently have the best transition efficiency in the league (135.2 points per 100 transition plays) and are also first in points added through transition, meaning the Lakers will need to be pretty spotless on defense if they hope to continue their recent on-court success. If not, the team could be in for a long and exhausting night.
The Lakers will take on the Kings at 7 p.m. Pacific time on Spectrum Sportsnet. All stats per Cleaning the Glass. You can follow Alex on Twitter at @AlexmRegla.