Los Angeles Lakers: defensive efficiency

Thursday's Number: 10

March, 31, 2010
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
This represents L.A.'s rank in defensive efficiency since the All-Star break, according to John Hollinger (Insider required).

Given the problems they've had throughout the year on the other side of the ball, the Lakers can't afford to give up any ground defensively. Unfortunately, that's been the trend of late. HoopData.com has the purple and gold ranked fourth in the NBA at 100.2 points allowed per 100 possessions, but only twice in the last 13 games have the Lakers managed to keep an opponent under that level of production (at home vs. Minnesota, at San Antonio).

For most of the season, I've noted the team's relative success keeping points off the board. The numbers still look good, but they're slipping. It's something the Lakers need to fix, and fast.

Thursday's number: 102.65

February, 25, 2010
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
This would be the Lakers defensive efficiency (points allowed per 100 possessions) in two games since Kobe Bryant returned from his 18-day layoff tending to his injured left ankle. As I noted over the weekend, in the five games Kobe missed L.A. was nearly impenetrable, holding opponents to 91.52 points per 100 trips.

It wasn't a sustainable pace- through Wednesday L.A.'s season long mark of 99.3 is second in the NBA behind Boston's 99.1- but obviously this week has seen a regression. One explanation beyond the natural ebb and flow of a season suggests the Lakers relaxed little with Kobe back on the floor, losing the do-or-die mentality they had on seemingly every stand in his absence. Another, though, is far more practical:


Apparently, having Kobe back makes it open season to treat the ball with the same respect teenagers tend to afford their parents. 17 giveaways against Memphis, 17 more against Dallas. This for a squad with the league's second best turnover rate, against two teams not exactly noted for their ball-hawking (Memphis is 20th in opponents TOR, Dallas 16th). There is no defense for those.

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Some numbers without Kobe

February, 21, 2010
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
With the odds of a Tuesday return looking increasingly strong for Kobe Bryant, it's as good a time as any to look at how the team performed in his absence beyond simply wins and losses. To help, there's a great post at the New York Times' Off the Dribble blog from Joseph Treutlein, co-owner of HoopData.com and assistant director of scouting for DraftExpress.com.

He looks at L.A.'s efficiency ratings on both sides of the ball in the five games without Bryant, making some interesting observations:
For the season to date, the Lakers rank 11th in the league in offensive efficiency, scoring 106.6 points per 100 possessions, well over the league average of 104.2. Over the past five games, the Lakers have played the Warriors (28th-ranked defense), the Jazz (11th-ranked defense), the Spurs (9th-ranked defense), the Blazers (17th-ranked defense), and the Celtics (1st-ranked defense), and their four victories came by double digits for an average margin of 10.6 points.

On the surface, it appears the offense must be performing better sans Kobe. But looking deeper into the numbers, the surprising truth is that, despite the Lakers’ dominance over those five games, they’ve actually been performing noticeably worse than normal. Indeed, the Lakers’ offensive efficiency, on average, during the past five games has been 102.8 — 3.8 lower than their season average. While these numbers don’t definitively prove anything, they likewise don’t provide any evidence that the offense performed better without Bryant; the opposite has been the case.

So how do we explain the Lakers’ excellent play these past five games? Surprisingly, it’s on the defensive end where they’ve stepped up their game, playing far above their standard. For the season, the Lakers rank second in the league in defensive efficiency, allowing 99.6 points per 100 possessions, but in the past five games they’ve allowed an average of just 91.5 points per 100 possessions.

Treutlein correctly notes five games isn't a large enough sample size to draw sweeping conclusions, but the numbers seem to confirm what the eye saw. The Lakers were outstanding offensively in Portland, the first with Kobe on the sidelines, posting 113.8 points per 100 possessions. Against San Antonio the Lakers were again strong, at 107.4.

From there, things got increasingly less efficient: 101.3 against Utah, dropping to 98.1 against an absolutely wretched Golden State defense, and 93.5 against Boston, the stingiest team in basketball.

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Kobe Bryant
22.3 5.6 1.3 34.5
ReboundsJ. Hill 8.2
AssistsK. Bryant 5.6
StealsR. Price 1.6
BlocksE. Davis 1.3