With nine games remaining in the regular season, the Lakers aren't just playing great basketball since the All-Star break, but historically good basketball. Their 15-1 run has them on pace to post the best post-break record in NBA history.
As Zach Lowe of SI.com notes, the Lakers are distancing themselves from opponents on both sides of the ball:
"In their 15-1 stretch since the All-Star break, the Lakers have scored 109.3 points per 100 possessions, according to Hoopdata. Only one team — Denver — has a better mark over the full season. On defense, the Lakers have surrendered just 99 points per 100 possessions in that 16-game run; only the Bulls and Celtics have been stingier, and the gap vanishes once you consider that the Lakers have played a strong schedule in that span.
Put simply, the Lakers are playing both offense and defense better than anyone else."
Not a bad formula. Lowe identifies another aspect of L.A.'s defense we've talked about on the blog throughout the year- their ability to defend without fouling. That they're good at it is no secret (they lead the league in free throws allowed per field goal attempt, at .178). I didn't realize, though, just how good they've been:
"They are, in fact, close to becoming the least foul-prone team in NBA history. Consider: The Lakers have yielded 19.4 foul shots per game. Only eight teams have ever allowed fewer than 20 per game over a full season, and if the Lakers keep playing like they are now, they will break the all-time record (19.3). Since the All-Star break, Los Angeles has given up only 18.4 free throws a game — an unthinkable number.
And if you prefer free throw rate, which measures free throws allowed per shot attempt and thus factors in pace, the Lakers are on a historic pace there, too. Only six other teams have allowed so few free throws per shot attempt, and only one of those six (the 2004-05 Suns) played in the post-hand-checking era."
Add in their ability to take care of the ball (despite some monumentally sloppy games sprinkled through the first few months of the season, L.A. has been at or near the top of the league in turnover percentage for most of the year), and the Lakers are forcing opponents to do all their own heavy lifting. Sunday's win was a perfect example: Only nine turnovers, and 15 free throws allowed.
This is, more or less, how the Lakers have rolled over the last few seasons, among the reasons in broad terms their current level of play doesn't seem unsustainable.