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Lakers Look to Avenge Early-Season Loss Against Indiana
By: Michael Taylor
The Lakers’ woeful defense will attempt to contain Paul George, Jeff Teague, and young stud Myles Turner after another rough loss against Denver. The last time these two teams played, Los Angeles had the lead late, but Paul George shot the lights out, scoring all 12 of his 4th quarter points in the final 3:58 of play (the final 12 points for Indiana). If Luol Deng misses the game, there isn’t much that the Lakers can do to stop that from happening again. What they can do is, focus on containing Turner and George off screens and take advantage of Indiana’s inability to contest three pointers consistently.
Myles Turner in the Pick & Pop
Here’s a play that the Pacers like to use either at the start of the game, or the start of the 2nd half. Turner is a proficient shooter for someone 6’11, making him difficult to guard particularly for Mozgov and Zubac, who struggle to close out on three-point shooters.
Why it Worked: Indiana starts in horns with two bigs at the elbow, the two wings in the corners, and the point at the top. Teague passes the ball to Young, and cuts to set a screen on Glenn Robinson III’s man free throw line extended. This pick and cut is designed as a distraction to open Teague to get the ball back on a handoff. This leaves Emmanuel Mudiay stuck behind the traffic of bodies as Teague returns to retrieve the ball. Robinson III cuts through to George’s original spot, as Young rolls to the opposite block. This action clears out the entire weak side of the court, leading to Turner being wide open off a pick-and-pop with Teague.
How to Adjust: Once Teague gives the ball up and cuts to set the screen, whoever is guarding Teague (presumably D’Angelo Russell), needs to recognize that the screen Teague sets is designed to rid himself of his defender. Russell can choose to jump Teague and take away his path to return to the ball, however that leaves him susceptible to a back cut. As Teague comes back to retrieve the ball Thaddeus Young, the defender guarding Young could jump in front of Teague’s path and pressure Young to disrupt the flow of the play. As Teague comes off the Turner screen, the Lakers will need to hedge hard and retreat, or switch onto Turner accordingly to take away an open jump shot. If Los Angeles decides to ‘ice’ pick and rolls particularly in situations where Turner is the screener, they will need to be extremely careful as this defensive coverage is susceptible to stretch bigs. However, in any scenario whoever is defending Turner should close out hard, since 86% of his shots are catch and shoot, thus making it highly unlikely that Turner would attack such a close out.
George Coming Off Screens
Over 35% of George’s scoring possessions involve him with the ball in pick-and-roll (18.3%), or coming off off-ball screens (17.2%). The play below is an example of him in the pick-and-roll and how is scoring proficiency creates opportunities for others.
Why it Worked: Indiana runs a simple pick-and-roll with George and Turner to the strong side, with no teammate inside the three-point line. Despite having a poor shooting night (6-17), it’s easy to see how much the New Orleans defense respects George. Solomon Hill hesitates to fight over, and the hedge leads Turner to slip the screen. Terrance Jones cannot leave George because Hill hasn’t recovered — forcing Buddy Hield to tag Turner — leaving his man wide open for a corner three.
How to Adjust: At 6’9 George is much bigger than the average wing, so whoever is guarding him off-ball will need to be physical and fight over screens to deter him from his intended path, forcing him to exert more energy than he’d like to get the ball. The Lakers will have to live with contesting jump shots from George, even if he gets hot, in favor of taking away higher percentage looks. In pick-and-rolls, verbal callouts need to be concise and switches or hedges need to be efficient, or else George will pick Los Angeles apart. Off-ball defenders will need to remain disciplined stance-wise to inevitably help collapse or close out to outside shooters. While stopping George is difficult, making things harder on him will put stress on others to create and knock Indiana out of rhythm.
Making Open 3’s
Indiana’s defense is respectable, but suffer because they give up the most open threes (6 ft. +) in the league at 14.2 a game. Indiana struggles in contesting threes in both transition and in the half court. It will be imperative for Los Angeles to take advantage of this, despite being one of the worst shooting teams on uncontested 3PA at 35.7%. Below is an example of the Pacersf giving up an uncontested three in transition to Garrett Temple.
Why it Worked: Rudy Gay passes the ball up the floor to Darren Collison, and immediately fires a pass to Temple in the corner for an open three. Indiana defenders often hustle back to the paint in transition, leaving shooters open along the sideline. Monta Ellis takes a poor angle, squaring up horizontal with Collison instead of closing towards the baseline, which would have made the pass much harder to make as well as funneling Collison to the heart of Indiana’s defense. Compiling Ellis’s mistake, Indiana failed to realize where Temple was, with the closest viable defender in the paint having his back turned away from the ball.
How to Adjust: This game is an opportunity for Julius Randle to get into transition and rack up some assist by utilizing the Kickback action for Nick Young and company. Laker wings need to bust up the court and be ready for spot up opportunities. In the half court, dribble penetration can cause Indiana’s defense to overreact or miss rotations, leaving shooters open around the floor. The entire defense is susceptible to ball watching and poor defensive stance, which hampers their ability to close out and contest shots. This could be a chance for Young and Russell to snap out of the shooting funks they’ve been in over the recent stretch. Well, at least they’ll get open shots.
Notes: Momentum belongs to Indiana, as their offense has caught fire over the past seven games, posting an OFF RTG of 115.0 — 3rd only to San Antonio and Denver, while shooting 41.2% from 3. Jeff Teague seems to have found a rhythm posting 17.3 PPG, 10 APG, 5 RPG, with a TS% of 79.8 over the same span. Meanwhile, Los Angeles has backslid into a five-game losing streak, with a nightmarish 118.1 DEF RTG. Despite having a breakout game against Denver, Zubac may be used sparingly because of Myles Turner’s ability to spread the floor.