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Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Is Kobe right? Are the Lakers too old?

By Ryan Feldman
ESPN Stats & Information

Chris Humphreys/USA TODAY SportsKobe Bryant and the Lakers are 15-16 this season.
After the Los Angeles Lakers’ loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday, Kobe Bryant called the Lakers an “old damn team” and said “we’re just slow.”

Is Kobe right? Perhaps the Lakers are too “old” and “slow” to be playing Mike D’Antoni’s fast-pace system.

Here's the evidence:

The Lakers are 10-5 this season in low-possession games (95 or fewer possessions), but only 5-11 in high-possession games (96 or more possessions). With Mike D’Antoni on the sidelines, the Lakers are 8-2 in low-possession games, but only 2-9 in high-possession games.

Early in the season, a fast pace wasn’t an issue, as the Lakers won their first three games in which they had at least 100 possessions.

But lately, they haven’t been good in fast-pace games. They’ve lost six of their last seven games with at least 100 possessions.

Meanwhile, the Lakers have won five straight games with 95 or fewer possessions. Seven of their last eight wins have been with 95 or fewer possessions.

A faster pace equates to more possessions at both ends of the floor. In a high-possession game, a team will have to run from one end of the floor to the other more often. In a low-possession game, there typically will be longer possessions and more time to rest without running to the other end of the floor. D'Antoni's system relies on a faster pace. While with the Suns, D'Antoni's teams always ranked among the league leaders in pace.

The Lakers' offensive efficiency can also be linked to pace, as they have been more efficient offensively with a slower pace under D’Antoni. They’ve scored more than 100 points per 100 possessions in each of their 10 games under D’Antoni with a pace of 95 or lower.

Their six most inefficient offensive performances have come in games with 96 or more possessions, while their four most efficient offensive performances have come in games with 95 or fewer possessions.

This could be a problem going forward, as it appears the Lakers are playing at an even higher pace now that Steve Nash is back. Since Nash returned, the Lakers are averaging nearly 99 possessions per game, third-most during that span.

Despite scoring 99 points and only losing by four, Tuesday’s loss to the 76ers was the Lakers’ third-most inefficient offensive performance under D’Antoni. The Lakers scored less than a point per possession (and barely over a point per field-goal attempt) in a game that included 102 possessions.

The Lakers shot 39 percent from the field and 3-of-22 on 3-point attempts, their worst 3-point shooting performance this season.

Based on the evidence above, slowing the game down appears to be the optimal strategy for the Lakers.


Statistical support for this story from NBA.com.