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.