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Game Preview: Suns vs. Lakers – 3/9/17

Win-Win: Lakers and Suns Play for Ping-Pong Balls

By: John Lu

 

The Lakers and Suns square off in the final matchup of their season series – with Phoenix holding a 2-1 lead. Since the All-Star break, the Lakers have lost six games in a row (in addition to two other losses right before the break) while the Suns have won three out of seven games. This game will likely have important draft lottery implications, as both teams are among the worst in the league. The Lakers are currently second to last in the standings with a 55.8% chance of securing a top-3 draft pick.

 

In the last meeting between the two teams, the Suns blew out the Lakers by 36 points in a 137-101 affair, shooting an absurd 55.7% from the field while doubling up the Lakers’ assists total (32 to 16). The Lakers have struggled to stop the Suns starting backcourt of Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker during the previous three matchups. We have previously written a preview article highlighting them – check it out here. In addition to focusing on stopping those two, the Lakers also need to be watching out for the other emerging players on the Suns team.

 

Beware of Marquese

 

Why it Worked: In this play, Devin Booker attacks immediately off of the catch at the three-point line. He drives into the paint and attracts three Pelican defenders onto himself. As the defense collapses, Chriss catches his defender off guard and cuts from the three-point line to right in front of the basket. He does a great job of catching the Booker hook pass and keeping the ball high to avoid the steal attempt from Holiday. Then he finishes with a two-handed slam.

 

How to Adjust: Chriss has dramatically improved his offensive level of play since the All-Star break. In the seven games post-break, he has averaged 11.3 points on 63.2% true shooting. He has a knack for cutting to the rim, as 19.3% of his field goal makes are dunks (64.6% are assisted). Despite his offensive prowess around the rim, he has shot a pedestrian 46.2% from the free-throw line in the past seven games. As a result, it may be beneficial for the defense to foul him and send him to the free-throw line instead of allowing uncontested attempts at the rim.

 

The Suns Bench Mob

 

Why it Worked: In this play, Tyler Ulis catches his defender anticipating the screen to the left and drives in the other direction to move past him. Then he uses a hesitation dribble to penetrate further into the paint and passes around Felicio to the rolling Alan Williams for an easy layup. Since the All Star break, the Suns bench dual of Ulis and Williams are averaging a combined 23.7 points per game while both shooting above 50% from the field.

 

How to Adjust: The Lakers bench rotation has changed significantly with the departure of Lou Williams and the arrival of Corey Brewer and Tyler Ennis. As a result, the new bench unit will need to focus on communication to minimize the offensive effectiveness of Ulis and Williams. The Lakers players must focus on tagging Williams on the roll as 93.8% of his field goal attempts come from within 10 feet of the rim. At the same time, Ulis is converting just 42.9% of his attempts from less than three feet from the rim; hence his perimeter defender should rely on the defense behind him to protect the rim.

 

Notes: The Suns are 13-19 at home while the Lakers are 7-27 on the road this season. The Suns (3rd) and Lakers (6th) are among the fastest pace teams in the league while both having bottom-tier defensive efficacies (Suns 26th and Lakers 29th). In the 6 games since the All-Star break, D’Angelo Russell is averaging 20.8 points, 5.5 assists, and 3.0 rebounds on 55.1% true shooting in 32.8 minutes per game. In the same span, Brandon Ingram is averaging 11.7 points, 2.7 assists, and 4.3 rebounds on 51.4% true shooting in 36.0 minutes per game.

Game Preview: Charlotte Hornets vs. Los Angeles Lakers – 2/28/17

 

Lakers Seek Revenge After Blowing 19-Point Lead in Charlotte

By: John Lu

 

The Lakers underwent a dramatic management overhaul shortly before the trade deadline and introduced Lakers legend Magic Johnson as the new President of Basketball Operations. Emphasizing flexibility and youth development, Johnson traded the team’s leading scorer Lou Williams and backup point guard Marcelo Huertas to the Houston Rockets. With these trades, the team’s playstyle and identity have shifted towards the development of its young core, especially D’Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram, and Julius Randle.

 

In the second game of a four-game homestand, the Lakers will face the Charlotte Hornets for the second time this season. During the first meeting back on 12/20/16, the Lakers jumped out to a 19-point lead before unfortunately losing to a comeback effort led by Hornets All-Star point guard Kemba Walker, who contributed a near triple-double with 28 points, 10 assists, and 8 rebounds. The Hornets offense that game was very efficient – with 30 assists and 11 out of 25 shooting from beyond the arc. The Lakers should look to slow down Kemba while simultaneously focus on developing their own young players.

 

Kemba Scoring in the Pick & Roll

 

 

Why it Worked: In this play, the Hornets start the possession with an early pick-and-roll set between Kemba and Cody Zeller. Russell is caught by the screen while Mozgov is positioned too low on the hedge and does not have his feet set properly. As a result, he is caught backpedaling and Kemba easily accelerates past him for the layup. For the season, Kemba is penetrating to the rim effectively with a career-high 32.7% of his made field goals coming from less than 3 feet from the basket.

 

How to Adjust: Proper defense on pick-and-roll sets is crucial for the Lakers. This has been a frequently stressed point throughout the season. The defending big man needs to communicate the direction of the screen to the guard to minimize contact made and also must hedge high to cut off the drive. Despite his ability to drive into the defense, Kemba is shooting only 36.5% on two-point field goals outside of 3 feet. The Lakers would benefit from forcing him to convert from midrange.

 

Kemba Passing in the Pick & Roll

 

Why it Worked: The Hornets again run the same pick-and-roll set. Zeller makes great contact on the screen to allow Kemba to drive into the defense after the curl. Because Mozgov is on the wrong side of the screen, Nick Young is forced to leave Batum to help on the drive. Kemba makes the correct read and kicks the ball to Batum for the wide open three. In addition to his ability to attack the rim, Kemba has been extremely efficient creating for others in the offense with a 29.2% AST% and 10.2% TOV%.

How to Adjust: The Hornets are in the bottom-third of the league in three-point percentage at 35.0%. On the season, only four players on their team are shooting over 33.0% from long distance (Kemba – 39.9%; Belinelli – 37.6%; Batum 35.2%; and Marvin Williams – 34.6%). It would be imperative for the Lakers to keep the scouting report in mind and recognize which opposing player they should leave to help on a drive versus which players they should stay at home on to protect against the three-point shot.

 

Run the Offense Through D’Angelo Russell

 

Why it Worked: The Lakers run pick-and-roll action with Russell and Randle at the three-point line. Although Randle does not make contact with his screen, Russell catches Kemba off balance with a hesitation move and drives past him. Williams is not in position to help on the drive and Russell penetrates into the paint for the layup finish over Zeller.

 

 

Here Russell is in another one-on-one matchup with Kemba on the wing. Four Hornets players shift their attention towards Russell, in anticipation that he either drives by or posts-up against Kemba. Russell makes a great read and hits the wide open Clarkson in the weak side corner with a bullet pass. Splash.

 

How to Adjust: Although Russell played well in the past meeting against the Hornets (15 PTS, 5 REB, 5 AST, 2 BLK, and 2 TO on 54% TS in 26 minutes), Luke Walton decided to sub him out for Lou Williams late in the 4th quarter (3:44 remaining) with a score of 111 to 105 in the favor of the Lakers. The Hornets then proceed to outscore the Lakers 11 to 2 in the final minutes to steal the victory. With the departure of Lou Williams, the Lakers should have Russell on the floor to close out every single game.

 

Notes: The Lakers and Hornets are both in the bottom-third of the league in terms of field goal percentage –- 23rd and 29th, respectively. Both teams have the same three-point percentage at 35.0%. The Hornets are 7th in the league in terms of defensive efficiency while the Lakers are 25th in terms of offensive efficiency. In the two games since the trade deadline, D’Angelo Russell has averaged 23.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 4.5 assists on 54.2% true shooting in 32.5 minutes per game. 

Game Preview: Suns vs. Lakers – 2/15/17

 

Lakers, Suns Face Off  in Final Game Before All-Star Break

By: John Lu

 

After struggling through much of December and January, the Lakers have played better as of late. Their recent stretch re-introduced glimpses of the promising style of basketball what was played throughout the first 20 games of the season, when the team exceeded expectations on their way to a 10-10 record.

In the last game before the All Star break and the trade deadline, the Lakers will face off against the Suns for the third time this season. In the season series between the two Western conference bottom-dwellers, the two teams have split the first two meetings – the Lakers winning the first 119-108 and losing the second 115-119. In these two games, the Suns starting backcourt of Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker averaged a combined 51.5 points and 11 assists per game on 57.6% true shooting. The Lakers will need to formulate their game plan around containing these two to maximize their chance of winning.


Devin Booker Shooting the Three

 

 

Why it Worked: Booker has shot extremely well in 2017 – averaging 44.4% and 38.2% from long distance in January and February, respectively. Part of the reason behind his high three-point percentage is his teammates’ ability to find him for open shots beyond the arc. On the season 78.1% of his three-point makes were assisted.

In this play, Bledsoe brings the ball up and Tyson Chandler sets a screen on his man about 40 feet away from the basket as the ball crosses half court. This high screen and roll action allows Bledsoe to accelerate and easily get by John Henson (#31 on the Bucks) with a left-to-right crossover. As he penetrates into the paint, all five Bucks defenders collapse onto him, leaving both Booker and T.J. Warren wide open behind the three-point line. Bledsoe makes the correct read and swings the ball out to Booker. Splash.

How to Adjust: The high screen and roll action puts the Bucks’ defense in a reactionary situation and Booker’s defender unnecessarily helps on Bledsoe’s drive – allowing Booker to be wide open at the three-point line. It’s imperative for Booker’s defender to be disciplined to minimize the amount of open three-point looks for him.

In closeout situations, the defender must try to run Booker off the three-point line. On the season, he is shooting a suboptimal 37.8% from 10 feet to the three-point line and has yet to show the ability to efficiently create offense for others (averaging 3.6 assists and 3.0 turnovers per 36 minutes with 15.9% AST% and 12.4% TOV%). As a result, Booker’s defender should aim to attack him on the three-point line and force him to try to make a play for others.


Bledsoe on the Drive

 

 

Why it Worked: Bledsoe’s offensive game is best when he drives into the paint. For the season he is finishing around the rim at 61.4% while averaging career bests in both free throw attempt rate and free throw percentage (0.434 and 84.9%, respectively). In addition, he is also very capable of creating offense for others as the defense closes in on him (31.2% AST% and 14.7% TOV% this season).

In this play, the Suns again run high screen and roll. Unlike the other play, Chandler’s defender is not in position to hedge high and allows Bledsoe to accelerate and drive directly into the paint. Jameer Nelson gets caught on the screen and loses the angle to cut Bledsoe off. As a result, he steps around Nelson for a layup at the rim.

How to Adjust: It would be best for the defense to prioritize containing Bledsoe on the drive and force him to settle from the perimeter. On the season he is shooting just 35.9% from 10 feet to the three-point line and 32.5% beyond it. His outside efficiency is very pedestrian compared to his ability to finish at the rim or create open shots for others. Limiting Bledsoe’s penetration opportunities also minimizes kick outs to open teammates at the three-point line. Therefore, putting a quicker or longer perimeter defender (Clarkson or Russell) on him and having the big man hedge higher in screen and roll situations will help to curtail Bledsoe on the offensive end.

 


Exploit the Suns’ Perimeter Defense

 

 

Why it Worked: The Suns are the third worst team in the league in terms of defensive efficiency at 109.4 points per 100 possessions. The Bucks run a baseline loop play for Jason Terry. Although the two screeners make minimal contact with Booker, he still missteps around the Henson screen and forfeits an angle for Terry to catch and drive into the paint. While all this is happening, Bledsoe does not bother to apply any pressure on the passer, allowing him to accurately deliver the ball to the cutting Terry without concern for a deflection. As Terry drives into the teeth of the defense, he has options to either dish to Henson in the paint, Giannis at the three-point line, or to take the shot for himself. Booker has no choice but the commit the foul.

How to Adjust: The Lakers would be wise to run plenty of off-ball action against the poor Suns defensive backcourt. Bledsoe is averaging a career worst -0.5 DBPM while Booker has always been a negative defender at -2.9 DBPM. The Suns clearly have both communication issues and individual technique deficiencies on the defensive end and running motion off-ball plays will definitely open up offensive opportunities for the Lakers. Russell this season has shown the ability to make correct reads in these situations and the whole team will benefit by putting him at the trigger position.

Notes: The Suns and Lakers are two of the fastest teams in the league in terms of offensive pace – the Suns 4th at 101.8 possessions per game and the Lakers 6th at 100.6 possessions per game. At the same time the two teams are among the league’s worst in defensive efficiency – the Suns at 28th at 109.4 points per 100 possessions and the Lakers 29th at 110.1 points per 100 possessions. As a result, this game should be a high scoring affair. Over the past three games (excluding SAC), D’Angelo Russell has averaged only 5 field goal attempts while playing 23.3 minutes per game.    

 

Game Preview: Bucks vs. Lakers – 2/10/17

 

Lakers Conclude Grammy Trip in Milwaukee

 

By: Tom Zayas

 

The Lakers are the first team to play the Bucks since Jabari Parker’s injury on Feb. 8th. He finished the season averaging 20.1 points on 16 field goal attempts per game, which partially demonstrates the efficiency with which he’s been playing with this season. A lot of the Bucks’ offense depended on Parker operating in the high post and he performed well at it, shooting a career-best 53% eFG and 36.5% from three. When Parker went down, Beasley came in against Miami and scored 11 points in the 4th quarter, as he is wont to do. I’d suspect Beasley will slide into the starting lineup in Parker’s place, and his scoring ability has the potential to haunt the Lakers all night long. Giannis Antetokounmpo will shoulder more of the burden on offense in Parker’s absence, and get your popcorn ready to see how Brandon Ingram matches up with the Freak. Let’s check out some film to see what the Lakers will be facing on the court in Milwaukee. 

 

Freak in the 1 – 5 Double-High Screen

The Bucks like to run a double-high screen for Antetokounmpo with the point guard and the center setting the screens, which virtually guarantees a mismatch against Giannis’ length and speed. 

Why it Worked: Giannis Antetokounmpo’s ridiculous length helps him get around Chriss and to the basket for an and-1. He two steps his way into position from the free throw line, but it’s the double-high screen from Dellevedova and Henson the allows the Freak to create momentum for his long strides toward the basket. The play creates multiple mismatches — as Henson rolls with Bledsoe matched up with him, he’s ready to clean up Giannis’ miss or receive a pocket pass for a dunk. 

How to Adjust: I’m almost certain we’ll see this play from Milwaukee early in the game, so let’s assume that Ingram, Russell, and Black will be defending against it. Ingram should fight over the screens and try to keep up with Giannis from behind.  Russell needs to tag (jump in front of) Henson once he rolls (and contest Dellevedova if kicked to him for 3), and Black should get into Gianni’s body and eliminate his ability to go east-west with each step. All that being said, forcing him one direction and bodying him up without fouling is easier said than done.

I’m fascinated to see if Ingram is able to go over the screens with Giannis, trail him, and contest his shot at the basket from behind. Ingram’s not strong enough yet to be able to defend Giannis with any consistency, but it will be interesting to see whether or not Ingram can show flashes of mitigating elite length and speed in the NBA. 


 

Lengthy Bucks

The Bucks are particularly good at using their length to affect passing lanes. At 9th in the league in steals per game, they disturb passing lanes and create easy transition opportunities.

Why it Worked: Milwaukee is vulnerable against skip passes as their rotations have the tendency to get scrambled in half-court sets, but guards get into trouble when they try to go over the top of the Bucks for skip passes. Devin Booker tries to skip the ball across the defense but waits too long and Greg Monroe obstructs the passing angle with his length. The deflection leads to a transition opportunity, where the Bucks excel at team passing as seen in the clip above. 

How to Adjust: The best options to mitigate the Bucks’ length is to make quick decisions on the skip pass before they can obscure passing angles, make bounce passes, or drag the trapping bigs out to create a passing angle for the short roll. All of these things D’Angelo Russell excels at for his age, but chances are Jordan Clarkson and Lou Williams will rack up a few turnovers because of the Bucks’ length. 


 

Interior Passing

Milwaukee is second in the league in paint touch points (16 ppg) behind only Golden State. Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo frequently operate out of the high post, but are also extremely good cutters off-ball and create passing angles for layups — a trait that trickles down to the Bucks’ role players as well. Here’s Greg Monroe delivering an excellent back-door bounce pass to Mirza Teletovic for an and-1 layup.

Why it Worked: T.J. Warren tries to ice the screen from Brogdon, and Teletovic properly reads the back door cut. Monroe delivers an excellent bounce pass that passes Teletovic open, and the Suns’ interior defense isn’t prepared to contest the shot. Whether it’s Monroe, Giannis, Beasley, or Brogdon, the Bucks are an excellent interior passing team who create inside shot opportunities from penetration and cutting off the high post. 

How to Adjust: It will be important for the Lakers to not overplay the perimeter catch, as the Bucks don’t have many quality three-point shooter that you worry about. Teletovic is probably their most consistent shooter, but he’s still capable of beating you back door if you assume that shooting threes is all that he can do. As the Lakers scheme to beat the Bucks, I’d recommend forcing them to beat you from deep on Friday night, as they have limited outside shooting and shot creators without Jabari Parker out of the lineup. Forcing the Bucks into mid to long range jumpers all night will help mitigate the Bucks biggest strengths — fast-break points and points in the paint. 

 

 

 

Game Preview: Pistons vs. Lakers – 2/8/17

Lakers’ New Starting Unit Seeks Second Straight Win in Detroit

 
By: Michael Taylor (@LFRMBT)

 

On Monday night, the Lakers steamrolled the Knicks after swapping veterans Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov for Brandon Ingram and Tarik Black in the starting lineup. Although Black posted an insane +34 and net rating of 78 against the Knicks, his minutes could be limited against Andre Drummond’s size, as Black tends to struggle against bigger, more traditional NBA centers. There’s a chance that Luke inserts Mozgov into the starting unit to matchup with Drummond (and appease Moz), but after the success in New York, he might roll with his adjustment to see what this lineup can do against a team who hasn’t completely given up on the season (ahem, Knicks). Let’s take a deeper look into the January 15th game against the Pistons to see how the Lakers can adjust in order to snag their second straight win.  

Quick-Ish

In the previous game the Lakers played the Pistons, Ish Smith gave his team a nice boost off the bench — posting a +17 on the night in only 20 minutes.

Why it Worked: Julius Randle is slow to get back on defense, essentially creating a 5 on 4 opportunity for Detroit. Baynes sets the drag screen for Smith at the elbow, giving him enough space to survey the floor as well as pulling Black out a few more feet from the basket. Since Harris (presumably Randle’s man) is unguarded, he cuts directly to the basket. Ingram is too late in reacting to Harris’ cut through the lane, and Smith hits Harris for an easy dunk.

How to Adjust: Whenever the Pistons insert Smith into the game for Reggie Jackson, they transform into a faster team that opts for transition/early offense. The Lakers are 28th in the NBA in giving up fast break points, surrendering 15.0 PPG. In all cases, the Lakers need to get back in transition, but especially when Ish Smith comes in. The Lakers aren’t proficient enough on defense to go long stretches without everyone back on defense. In transition/early offense, Los Angeles needs to be clear in calling out defensive assignments. 


 

Pistons’ Spacing

Why it Worked: The play starts out in horns with Smith passing to Drummond, then cutting to set a stagger screen for Stanley Johnson. Drummond then goes into a dribble handoff with Marcus Morris. Nick Young goes under Drummond’s screen, giving Morris enough space to rise and drill the three.

How to Adjust: Stan Van Gundy is notorious for running four out to maximize the pace inside the three-point line to run pick and roll with Drummond. The combo of Morris and Harris shot 6-15 from three (23 points each), which opens the floor for plays like this.

At 34.1%, Marcus Morris is not an elite three-point shooter and Nick Young probably does right by going under Drummond to cut off a possible drive. However, he needs to do a better job fighting Morris to get to the spot that Morris wants to get to. Drummond is extremely unlikely to take off and drive to the basket, so when he dribbles in the half court, he’s looking to hand off to someone who can handle the rock or drain it from outside. Instead of following Morris, Young should jump his path. Although this might lead to a back-cut, the Lakers would do well in taking their chances with Drummond trying to make that pass.


 

MBT <3 DAR

D’Angelo Russell had a nice game scoring 20 points in just 26 minutes, with 14 points were a result of shots in or around the paint.

Aggressive Russell is the best Russell. Throughout the game, D’Angelo did a great job of attacking the smaller Detroit guards and getting into the paint. When his shot is falling, it sets up his passing.

Here, he’s posted up on the smaller Reggie Jackson, as Baynes hedges, Mozgov slips the screen, Russell throws a beautiful no look over the head pass. Due to Detroit having smaller guards, the Lakers would be wise to run their offense through Russell, and let him take advantage of the height differential.

MBT: “This clip below isn’t relevant; I just think it was funny how D’Lo broke Andre’s ankles and no one noticed.”

***Editor’s Note*** 

Michael thought we wouldn’t include this video, but we have to so y’all can understand why dude is so fired up about DAR (& why you should be, too). 

Notes: Andre Drummond is shooting a career best from the free throw line this season with .438%. If he gets close to the basket, FOUL THIS MAN IMMEDIATELY. The Pistons are 1st in the league in DREB% and the Lakers are 7th in OREB%, so the winner of this game will likely control this key area — Tarik Black’s energy (15.2 OREB %) could come in handy in the starting lineup. Both teams are bottom 5 in the league in AST%, so you’ll probably see a lot of stagnant offense with below average assist totals. With their traditional back-to-the-basket center Andre Drummond, the Pistons play the 5th slowest pace in the league (96.76), and the Lakers would benefit from pushing the pace and trying to control tempo in their favor.  

Game Preview: Knicks vs. Lakers – 2/6/17

 

The Lakers Face Off Against Rising Star Kristaps Porzingis & the New York Knicks

 

By: John Lu (@JohnLu008)

 

After back-to-back close losses in Washington D.C. and Boston, the Lakers will travel to Madison Square Garden to conclude their season series with the Knicks for the middle game of their five game Grammy road trip. The two teams come into the contest after having underwhelming performances in January — the Lakers winning just 5 of their 15 games and the Knicks winning 5 out of 17 games. 

Back in December, the Knicks narrowly defeated the Lakers in a 118 – 112 win to take the first meeting of the season series. Although Knicks star Carmelo Anthony struggled with just 13 points on 4 – 16 shooting, his fellow starters Derrick Rose and Porzingis contributed a combined 51 points on 31 shots to seal the victory.

Our Editor-in-Chief Pete Zayas made a video analyzing the liability of the Lakers switching too much on defense against the Knicks. Be sure it check it out for a refresher.


 

Porzingis’ Perimeter Game

Why it Worked: Porzingis’ offensive game is unique due to his quick guard-like agility at 7’ 3” and his ability to shoot from the perimeter. His enormous standing height allows him to rarely have to worry about his outside shot being blocked. In the first play, Rose sets a flare screen to get Porzingis open for the catch. Afterwards, he uses his quickness to attack Randle’s closeout off the dribble and then simply rises over Russell’s switch defense to drain the midrange jump shot.

In the second play, Clarkson switches with Nance Jr. and closes out on Porzingis at the three-point line. However, because of Porzingis’ size, Clarkson’s contest doesn’t bother him in the slightest and he knocks down go-ahead three-pointer.

How to Adjust: Porzingis is shooting a very respectable 37.9% from three-point range this season so defenders need to close out hard to him to run him off the three-point line. In the first play, Russell reacts appropriately by pointing out the flare screen to Randle, but then he stays too far back in the paint on the switch and is out of position to challenge the midrange jump shot. The secondary defender on the Lakers needs to hedge higher in pick and roll situations to contain Porzingis off the dribble.

As Pete pointed out in his video, Porzingis shot very poorly in the first meeting when he was actually guarded by Lakers defenders at his own position in isolation situations. He was unable to effectively shoot over them as he did with the Lakers guards. Therefore, it is imperative for the Lakers defense to minimize switching between guards and bigs.


 

Derrick Rose in Transition

Why it Worked: In the first matchup in December, Derrick Rose’s play was reminiscent of his 2010-2011 MVP season as he shredded the Lakers transition defense on his way to 25 points on 12 out of 16 shooting from the field.

In the first play, Rose starts the fast break with three Lakers in front of him. Randle should have swung his hips earlier and sprinted to make contact with Rose to slow down the fast break. However, no one stops the ball and Rose is able to run in a direct line from one free-throw line to the other, ultimately getting into the lane for the floater. It’s a similar story with Russell in the second play; he is initially in good position to step in front of Rose but instead chooses to go for the interception and gets burned by Porzingis’ overhead pass. The result is unsurprising – another made floater by Rose.

How to Adjust: The team must make a conscious effort to run back on defense to contain the Knicks’ early transition offense. Specifically, the Lakers guards and wings need to do a better job of putting a body on Rose to make him change directions and slow down. Once Rose gets a full head of steam, it is difficult to contest his floaters in transition, especially with his high release point.


 Carmelo Anthony’s Midrange Game

Why it Worked: In this play, Anthony has the smaller Russell switched onto him and the Knicks team goes into an isolation set. The four other Knicks on the floor position themselves behind either the three-point line or the basket to discourage the Lakers defense from helping on the play. Russell knows that he’s not tall enough to affect Anthony’s shot and makes a mistake swiping at the ball with his left hand, allowing Anthony to step to his left side, rise up, and knock down a 14-foot jump shot.

How to Adjust: Carmelo Anthony is second in the league in total field goal attempts from between 10 feet to the three-point line. Despite shooting a respectable 45.5%, his points per possession from this distance is still below the overall league average points per possession. It would benefit the Lakers defense to switch less and continue to allow Anthony shoot from this range with Deng, Ingram, or Young guarding him instead of smaller (e.g. Russell) or slower (e.g. Mozgov) defenders. A repeat of Anthony’s inefficient offensive performance from the first meeting would definitely help the Lakers’ cause.

 

Notes: The Knicks and Lakers are two of the worst teams in terms of defensive efficiency – the Knicks at 24th with 107.8 points per 100 possessions and Lakers at 30th with 110.3 points per 100 possessions. The Knicks have the 3rd highest offensive rebounding rate at 27.7% while the Lakers have the 7th worst defensive rebounding rate at 75.5%. The Lakers big men need to consistently box out to deny the Knicks extra possessions on the offensive end. In the three games since returning from an MCL sprain, D’Angelo Russell has averaged 19.7 points, 9.0 assists, and 6.7 rebounds in 32.3 minutes per game.

 

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Game Preview: Wizards vs. Lakers – 2/2/17

Lakers Begin 5-Game Road Trip Against the Wizards

By: John Lu

The Lakers will kick off their annual Grammy trip this Thursday against the Wizards in Washington D.C. Despite starting their season with an underwhelming 7-12 record, the Wizards have increased their level of play and will come into the contest boasting a record of 28-10 after winning 9 out of their last 10 games.

The Wizards offense is headlined by 2017 All-Star John Wall and fellow backcourt mate Bradley Beal, a dynamic duo averaging a combined 44.7 points, 13.9 assists, and 7.4 rebounds per game this season. Wall is having an excellent year, averaging career highs in points, assists, steals, and true shooting percentage, while Beal is gradually establishing himself as one of the best shooting guards in the league.

Another key player in Washington’s offense is starting center Marcin Gortat. He has made a living in the NBA playing as John Wall’s pick and roll partner and using his 6’11” frame to set hard screens and crash the offensive glass. The Lakers’ best chance of winning comes from slowing down the Wall-Beal-Gortat trio on offense.

 

Wall’s Passing in the Pick and Roll

 

 

Why it Worked: Gortat does a spectacular job of blocking out T.J. McConnell with a stepup screen (i.e. setting the screen with his back facing the baseline, instead of the side of the defender in the case of a traditional screen) and then runs directly to the basket ready to catch a pass. Noel has to contain Wall on the drive and does a nice job of also staying close to Gortat to prevent a direct pass. However, Wall is able to find the opening by lobbing the ball ahead of Gortat and away from Noel to set up the alley-oop.

 

How to adjust: Communication between Gortat’s defender and the perimeter defender being screened is paramount. In this case, Noel should have made the direction of the incoming screen clear to McConnell so that he could adjust and minimize his contact with the screener. However, there was no communication here and McConnell is completely taken out of the play by the screen. If Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (#20 on the 76ers) decides to help and tag Gortat on the roll, then his man — Bradley Beal –would be left open.

 

Beal Moving Without the Ball

 

 

Why it Worked:  Beal curls around a Gortat screen to free himself up for an open three-point shot. Gortat does a terrific job making contact on the screen to create separation between Beal and the defender. Wall then delivers the ball with an on-target pass so that Beal can get into his shooting motion immediately after the catch. Wall setting up the play far out behind the three-point line also provides additional spacing by making his defender hesitant to help on Beal’s curl.

How to Adjust: Beal’s defender must commit to fully trailing him on screens and applying back pressure in order to run him off the three-point line. As of late, the Lakers big men have been hanging back in the paint in these situations to protect the rim against penetration after the curls. As a result, Beal will likely have many midrange opportunities; however, despite his above average midrange efficiency, his shots from that range are yielding only 0.92 points per possession, below the league overall average of 1.03 points per possession.

 

Gortat’s Offensive Rebounding & Wall’s Ability to Collapse the Defense

 

Why it Worked: Gortat is averaging a career best 3.1 offensive rebounds per game (12th best in the league) and is also 19th in the league for offensive rebounding percentage. Wall drives into the lane and draws a secondary defender to contest his shot, which opens up Gortat to establish great rebounding position right underneath the rim. Not surprisingly, he is able to put the ball back in for an easy score. 

How to Adjust: The Lakers are one of the worst (25th) defensive rebounding teams in the league at 32.4 per game. The Lakers big men need to make a conscious effort to box out Gortat on defense. He’s also highly adept at swatting offensive rebounds out to the perimeter players, which enables him to rebound effectively even when he’s boxed out. It’s on the Laker guards to be aware of this and put a body on the Wizards’ perimeter players to limit offensive rebound opportunities. Ivica Zubac has shown promise as a defensive rebounder after recent playing time, so it may be helpful to play him extended minutes against Gortat.

Notes: The Wizards are 9th in the league in true shooting percentage at 56.1% and 9th in offensive rating at 107.4, while the Lakers are 30th in defensive efficiency at 110.3. John Wall has drastically decreased his bad pass turnovers this year, as he only has 26 through 48 games. He’s averaged 148.16 bad pass turnovers per year in his first 6 seasons. Otto Porter has made significant strides in his 4th season, shooting an impressive 46.2% from 3 while boasting a staggering 129 offensive rating (and a respectable 106 defensive rating).

Game Preview: Nuggets vs. Lakers – 1/31/17

 

Lakers Look to Match 2016 Win Total Against Depleted Nuggets

 
By: Austin Isaacsohn

 

While the Lakers have lost three straight, and are readying to face a Denver Nuggets team that beat them down just two weeks ago on the Staples Center floor, Los Angeles will not have to face two of Denver’s best players Tuesday night. Both Emmanuel Mudiay and Nikola Jokic will miss the contest, and with both out, Denver loses 43 points, 17 rebounds and 7 assists from their last game against the Lakers. Other Nuggets will need to step up, but Denver — who is averaging over 110 points per game, third best in the league — is still likely to score well against the Lakers, as most teams do. Los Angeles can pull out a win if they can capitalize on the aspects that Denver will be sorely missing — rebounding and playmaking.

The Nuggets are one of the league’s very best rebounding teams. Their offensive rebounding percentage of 28.4 is second highest in the entire NBA, and their 78.8 defensive rebounding percentage is good for third. These beefy numbers are mainly a result of their three big men — Kenneth Faried, Nikola Jokic, and Jusuf Nurkic — all being beasts on the glass. All three grab upward of 18% of all available rebounds when they’re on the court. However, the Nuggets will be missing Jokic, and will need to rely more on Faried and Nurkic to that end. This should give the Lakers an advantage, as Julius Randle (if he plays), Tarik Black, Thomas Robinson, and whichever huge European center they throw out there should be able to at least hold their ground on the boards against those two — which eats away at what is perhaps Denver’s biggest strength.

 

No Mudiay, No Problem

 

Emmanuel Mudiay will also miss this game, which isn’t quite as good for the Lakers as it may seem. Jameer Nelson will likely replace him in the starting lineup, and the advantages Nelson brings in the style of play in which Denver excels should more than make up for whatever the Nuggets lose with Mudiay off the court — at least offensively.

While it seems Mudiay is the Nuggets’ best backcourt passer, Nelson has the considerably higher assist rate, sitting at 26.1% to Mudiay’s 21.1%. Jameer records an impressive 2.5 assists for every turnover, while Emmanuel only 1.6. Nelson averages 1.3 more assists than Mudiay per 36 minutes, his 107 offensive rating is miles better than Mudiay’s 96, and the difference in the three-point shot should not be ignored.

Nelson opens up a bunch of opportunities for himself and others at the perimeter with basic split-cuts:

Why it Worked: A high-post entry pass to Jokic pulls the center far away from the basket, and the denial of Nelson’s off-ball down screen by Gary Harris not only pulls his iced man into the paint, but also Nelson’s — for the aforementioned defensive big is up at the free throw line, and the rim must be protected at all costs. The  double creates space that Nelson expounds on by reversing behind Jokic for an open look.

Check out another:

Why it Worked: Another high-post entry to Jokic does the same thing as before, but this time Nelson’s defender must be either anticipating a slip-screen or a screen denial, because he takes a jump back before Jokic even makes his handoff. The defender then can’t recover all the way to Nelson because of the now-rolling Jokic, and Nelson has turned yet another three-man game into a three-point possession.

How to Adjust: Switiching screens out at the three-point line would help cut down on all this space, especially without Jokic on the floor to eat up immediate mismatches. It would also alleviate a lot of Denver’s opportunities that come as a result of such hard closeouts. The Lakers can’t get switch-happy, though, because those slip-screens will become even more dangerous.

The Nuggets have seven guys on roster who shoot over 37% from deep, and Mudiay ain’t one of them. With both he and Jokic out, expect Denver to play even faster than its usual speedy pace, which is already 6th in the league. The Nuggets will need to be jacking it up and hitting from deep if they want to contend with the Lakers, and their best shooter, Will Barton, is more than capable of keeping them in it.

 

Transition Killer

 

The last time these two teams met, Barton torched the Lakers in transition, hitting every single one of his five three-pointers less than 10 seconds into the shot clock. This is just one of them:

Why it Worked: In the confusion of a transition push, neither Randle nor Mozgov decides to pick up Faried, who realizes that space and screens Nick Young, who’s already downcourt of him and must therefore go under. That second was all Barton needed.

How to Adjust: More communication on defense would solve a lot of the Lakers issues, but in this case the Nugget’s quick push made it that much more difficult. Even an early zone would be better than this — you just gotta have a guy up there, ready to navigate impromptu, early-shot-clock screen-rolls. It was a strategy Denver used brilliantly against LA in their first meeting, and will be something they need to rely on almost completely in their next.

 

Notes: Denver is one of only five teams in the entire league to have six or more players currently averaging over ten points per game. Now, this is of course impressive, and at first glance seems hugely advantageous, but the numbers behind such evenly distributed scoring paint a bit of a different picture. Of those six aforementioned teams (DEN, DET, MIA, DAL, and LAC), only one has a winning record, and the total win-loss column for all sits at a collective 104-127 — registering a winning percentage that would translate to a team winning fewer than 37 games per season.

The very best teams in the league, Golden State and Cleveland, have only seven such players between them — and Draymond Green barely makes the cut, averaging 10.7 points a night. Now, correlation obviously does not imply causation, but there’s obviously something to be said for a team that understands who its star players are, and prioritizes getting them the ball. The Lakers have five players who score over 10 points per game, and it won’t be long before Brandon Ingram starts sniffing around that range as well. So, like the Nuggets, the Lakers seem to still be searching for that star to be born. Or, perhaps, drafted.

Game Preview: Jazz vs Lakers – 1/26/17

Lakers Look to Avoid Season Sweep Against Jazz

By: Michael Taylor

The last time the Lakers faced the Jazz, Gordon Hayward abused LA’s defense en route to dropping 31 points on 10-17 shooting. Los Angeles did a particularly bad job of putting a hand in Hayward’s only 5 of his shots were contested. While Hayward is a star and still likely to get his, Los Angeles can certainly make his life a bit harder.

Fighting Over Screens

Why it Worked: This was a play drawn up to establish a rhythm early on for Hayward, and it worked beautifully. Derrick Favors hangs up top, while Rodney Hood runs a high ball screen with Rudy Gobert. Mozgov doesn’t step out because Gobert is not a shooting threat. As soon as Hood comes off the screen, Hayward slips a screen and shoots up through the “gate” made by Gobert and Favors. Deng gets faked out by Hayward’s hesitation and is too slow to recognize that his man is about is about to have an open three. As soon as Hayward runs through, Gobert and Favors close the “gate”, giving Hayward the easy look.

How to Adjust: Of Hayward’s 17 shots, 9 of them were off screens (with or without ball) to free him up. This led to him in large part to hitting 8-12 uncontested shots. Containing Hayward limits a lot of what Utah can do offensively. Off ball, whoever is guarding Hayward (presumably Deng), will need to remain locked onto him and fight over screens to the best of his ability, limiting his ability to catch and shoot, and force him into more isolation plays. On ball screens, Hayward’s defender should fight over the screen, and the screener’s man should hedge hard to force Hayward to dribble out or pass to a teammate. While, hard hedges are susceptible to slips, Utah’s bigs aren’t lethal off the dribble, and can be controlled by tagging appropriately.

Rudy Gobert is essentially the real-life Mr. Fantastic with an absolutely freakish 9’9 standing reach. In three games against the Lakers this year he’s blocked 11 shots, and altered many more.

Why it Worked: D’Angelo Russell does a good job using Shelvin Mack’s aggressiveness against him, by stopping on a dime and spinning opposite of Mack’s momentum. As soon as he gets a step on Mack, Russell cuts him off giving him a two-on-one opportunity with Mozgov against Gobert. Gobert is caught off balance, and doesn’t jump, but still alters the shot. Gobert is such a strong shot blocker, he gets into the head of opposing players even when he cannot block the shot.

How to Adjust: The Lakers should go small whenever Gobert is on the floor to drag him out of the paint, and force him to guard outside. If he’s defending the ball, he’s in no position as a help defender, thus allowing easier shots at the basket. Going small gives the Lakers the option to use Deng at the 4, and Randle/Nance at the 5. However, this is a risky proposition, since it intensifies the issues surrounding defensive rebounding. Gobert is too tall and too long for Randle to consistently box out. Los Angeles will need a collective effort from at least 4 players to crash the glass and limit Gobert’s offensive rebounding prowess as much as possible.

Notes: Since he missed the last two games, it’s easy to forget just how much George Hill gashed the Lakers’ defense in their first outing on October 28th. Hill scored 10 of his 23 points off layups, while also getting to the line. Many times, Russell decided to go over the screen (potentially to weak it), and this allowed Hill room to accelerate against the flat-footed Mozgov.

Michael Taylor (@LFRMBT) Writer – As a 19 year old with elite measurables and a promising skill set, Michael is Laker Film Room’s 1st round draft pick. Much like Luke Walton with Brandon Ingram, we think that the best thing for Michael’s development is a lot of hands on experience, producing Game Previews, Post-Game Reports, and various other articles for us.

Game Preview: Blazers vs. Lakers – 1/25/17

The Quest to Halt the Blazer’s 10-game Winning Streak Against the Lakers

By: Austin Isaacsohn

The Lakers will ride into the Moda Center Wednesday to face the Trail Blazers: a team allowing the fourth-most points per game in the league, who haven’t had an All-Star in three years, and losers of four of their last five. Yet L.A. will assuredly play the underdog for one main reason — Damian Lillard.

The point guard has absolutely shredded L.A. his entire career. Over the last three seasons, he’s averaged over 27 points per game against the purple and gold — way up from his career average of 21.9 — and has shot over 41% from deep — up from his 36.7% career mark. LA’s clearest path to victory therefore revolves around shutting down Lillard, and conversely, using his disadvantages on defense.

Someone, Say Something

Why it Worked: The shot occurs at the three-point arch, but it was action in the paint that freed up the shooter. As soon as Lou Williams goes over the high Plumlee screen (which the Lakers do because there’s just no way Mozgov can keep up with a guard on the switch), Plumlee plunges into the paint, pulling Mozgov — who still has his eyes on Evan Turner — with him. Plumlee does a good job of running away from the man guarding him, which forces Russell to pick him up, and Mozgov doesn’t see the screen from Lillard, causing even more confusion down low.

How to Adjust: Mozgov could have switched and chased Lillard out to the perimeter to get crossed up something nasty, which is what the Lakers wanted to avoid in the first place (not to mention leaving Russell on a center). Mozgov should have recovered quicker to Plumlee after the screen and let Russell get the hell out of the paint. There’s no communication inside, and all of a sudden Lillard is at the top of the arch with the ball and no one around him. Swish.

Eliminate Lillard’s Head Start

Why it Worked: The Blazers know that LA isn’t switching here, so they run a very high pick, well above the three-point line. Plumlee makes great contact with Clarkson, who was probably supposed to ice, and Randle finds himself flat-footed and guarding someone who is not only much faster than him, but now also has a running start. Randle’s teammates also didn’t do much to help their power forward. Nick Young was likely told to not help too hard off of Allen Crabbe, as most NBA teams (including the Lakers) don’t help off of 3-point shooters when they’re one pass away. Ingram’s in terrible weak side help position, but he can’t have one foot in the paint, as that’s essentially what the refs are looking for on the Defensive 3 Seconds call. He’s supposed to “toe tap” into the paint, getting in & out of there before they call the 3 second violation.

How to Adjust: There’s no need for Clarkson to fight over a screen 40 feet away from the basket. This gives Lillard a head of steam & it’s impossible to stay in front of a guard like him when that happens. Randle doesn’t square up particularly well, and gets turned sideways. This is mostly due to the head of steam, but it’s something he struggles with. Had a switch been called out by anyone, Randle could have hedged harder on Lillard, increasing his chances of not getting driven by or shot over — Dame’s best two attacks.

There are ways to solve these issues. Communication is obviously key, but setting a specific game plan against Lillard that involves fighting over his screens whenever possible to chase him off the three-point line (just not 40 feet away), and hard hedging (if forced to switch) to limit his penetration and shooting would behoove LA.

A Little Too Small-Ball

Lillard is not without weaknesses as a player — weaknesses that can be exploited by size. Lillard is only 6’3, and his partner CJ McCollum is 6’4, making them considerably shorter than the Lakers usual backcourt pairing, not to mention they are both subpar defenders. And because D’Angelo’s recent knee injury will keep him out of the game, Brandon Ingram running point will increase that size advantage exponentially. Ingram opens a ton of opportunities all over the court, and can shoot over most guards, not to mention undersized ones.

There isn’t much a smaller guard can do when faced with this length in the post — not to mention out at the three-point line. McCollum gets a great contest below against James Harden, but the two inches or so between the players makes a huge difference when it comes to release/contest point.

Ingram will also help a lot on this end. While lineups that feature him at point flounder offensively, and he can struggle to keep up with waterbug-type guards, his length poses numerous threats to spot-up shooters — which will come in handy against the Blazers, who shoots the 8th-most three pointers in the NBA.

While the Trail Blazers are likely to scheme to avoid a dreaded Ingram-Lillard or Ingram-McCollum matchup, when those situations inevitably arise, the rookie must be ready. That also means that Jordan Clarkson and Lou Williams will see a lot of time against Portland’s two best players, and should both exploit that pairing by attacking relentlessly on offense — thus making Lillard and McCollum work harder on defense and become that much more fatigued on offense.

Notes: The Blazers allow the third-highest three-point field goal percentage in the entire league, at 38.2%, so LA’s shooters should have opportunity to get hot. Portland is significantly better at home (0.9 Net Rtg) than on the road (-5.2 Net Rtg). Expect a lot of poor defense on both sides, as the Lakers (110.5) and the Blazers (108.9) are in the bottom-5 in the league in Defensive Rating.

Austin IsaacsohnAs well as contributing as a writer at LFR, Austin also writes for The Daily Californian, where he covers Cal’s men’s basketball team. He’s a Laker fan who’s been living in Warrior’s Nation the last few years, which has only strengthened his Laker pride.