As the Los Angeles Lakers earned their fifth victory of the season in Tyson Chandler’s debut with the team, Minnesota accomplished some franchise history. Behind Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler’s strong shooting nights, the Timberwolves hit a franchise record 20 three-pointers.
Despite that barrage from deep, the Lakers held Minnesota to 110 points. By typical standards, that’s still fairly high, but it was still tied for the lowest point total the Lakers have given up this season. When you consider how insanely hot Minnesota was from deep (especially off the dribble), that’s not that bad. LeBron James agrees with that assessment.
“This is the most we’ve defended for 48 minutes all year, and we did it against a very good team,” James told reporters after the game Wednesday night.
These kinds of things change on a nightly basis at this point of the season, but the Lakers are out of the bottom five in defensive rating (points given up per 100 possessions). Hey, progress!
One theory as to why the Lakers might have been better despite Minnesota’s outside shooting efficiency has to do with the type of defense they’ll probably have to play with JaVale McGee and Chandler as the team’s two centers.
Neither McGee or Chandler are going to keep very many guards in front of them if they switch and try to pressure up. More often than not, in pick-and-roll situations in which their guy is the screener, they’ll drop back into contain coverage, which opens up the ball-handler for some kind of attempt off the dribble — ideally in the midrange.
One stat that sticks out, therefore, is how Minnesota shot in the paint, not including attempts in the restricted area. These are the kinds of attempts that the aforementioned drop coverage will allow. On such attempts, the Wolves shot 3-16, good for an absolutely frigid 18 percent.
Better shooters will take advantage of those kinds of attempts, but against that team specifically, that’s how you make up for how well they shot from deep.
It’s also interesting that James mentioned “48 minutes.” This is where Chandler’s presence was felt. In previous games, the Lakers would have lengthy stretches where it felt like they couldn’t stop a nosebleed. Now that they employ a second NBA-caliber center, those stretches will feel shorter — as James seems to be mentioning here.
All-in-all, it was a pretty good night defensively for the Lakers. Not great, obviously, but decent. The game was slower than they’ve been playing all year, and you don’t want to give up 60 points in three-pointers. Still, they won. Now it’s about building upon that effort moving forward.