Advanced Scouting: San Antonio Spurs at Los Angeles Lakers
San Antonio Spurs at Los Angeles Lakers 9:30 CST February 3, 2011
The Spurs took on the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers on December 28. This game, the champs were no match for the West’s top gun of the first half. San Antonio came away victorious by the score of 97-82.
The theme of the night was shutting down the star scorers. For the Spurs, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan combined to 4 of 19, while only making 1 free throw. However, Manu and George Hill were very instrumental in holding Kobe Bryant to 8 of 27 shooting and two made free throws in addition to 5 turnovers (Kobe also assisted on just 1 basket). Hill had 4 blocks and 2 steals while Manu finished with 3 steals and 1 block. In addition to the Spurs stellar perimeter defense, Tim Duncan’s defense (and Kobe’s trigger finger) helped limit Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol to 9 points a piece. My scouting report on the Lakers suggested the Spurs try to entice Kobe to fall in love with the 2 point jumper.
One major advantage the Spurs had over the Lakers in this game was the fast break. The Spurs produced 19 points compared to the Lakers 5 points on the break. The Lakers were very reliant on isolations, using this playtype on 25 possessions and scoring only 18. The Spurs got easier shots in the half court, 31 spots ups versus LAâ€™s 17. However, neither team was able to convert these typically easy shots. Both clubs averaged an abysmal 0.65 points per possession on spot ups. Shannon Brown also struggled shooting the ball for the Lakers, shooting 1 of 11. A couple players that did make positive offensive contributions for San Antonio were Tony Parker and Dejuan Blair. Parker made 10 of his 18 field goal attempts for 23 points and Blair hit 8 of 14 to go with 15 rebounds.
Kobe has improved his efficiency numbers since shooting 8-27 against the Spurs. His FG%, which was 44% after the Spurs matchup, has been nearly 51% since that game. Kobe has also continued to exceed an impressive 7 free throw attempts per game and a reasonably low turnover rate. With Kobeâ€™s improved shooting, the Lakers found greater success. After the loss in San Antonio, the Lakers had lost 3 in a row and 8 of their last 16. They immediately won 12 of their next 15, with Kobe shooting less and converting at a higher rate. Although he played efficiently in the two following games against Sacramento and Boston, the Lakers lost both. In these two losses, Bryant took 56 shots and scored 79 points. These Lakers failures combined with the large quantity of Bryant attempts stirred up whispers once again that his domination of the ball was bad for the team no matter how effective he played.
I’ve seen others mention the Lakers poor record in games when Kobe shoots more than 30 attempts as proof of this theory. 39 wins and 55 losses sounds like a pretty convincing argument at first, but it doesnâ€™t tell the whole story. Sure Jordan (72-57) and Lebron (14-12) have managed winning records in this situation, but itâ€™s plausible that Kobe is more likely to increase his shot attempts when a comeback is more unlikely. This would only serve to help his heroic perception (and provide occasional backlash).
The quickest and best way I thought of testing if opponents REALLY want Kobe to take more shots going into a game was to utilizing only the first quarter, before a change in game plan really needed to be made. Using data from 2005-06 to last season, I took Kobeâ€™s 30 games with the most field goal attempts (averaging 15.8 per quarter). In contrast to the misleading suggestions of the above figures, the Lakers outscored opponents by an average score of 28.4-24.5 and won 22 of these quarters. This translates to 113.5-98.
Clearly it would be tough for him to manage that high usage rate, and although all measurements have errors, the answer should be more obvious: You DO NOT want Kobe shooting more.
Based on the clutch statistics quoted by Henry Abbott, (and other data and games Iâ€™ve seen), I do suspect that Kobe takes tougher shots (which are easier to get off) once the game gets tight or out of hand. As mentioned in my Lakers scouting report, Bryant does seem able to be enticed to take the shot you offer him, even if they are low percentage attempts. Just beware, his shot selection has improved this year and especially recently (fewer long twos and more shots inside 10 feet).
LA Lakers: 6.02 (4th)
San Antonio: 7.16 (1st)
|Player||Fraction of teams minutes||PER minus Counterpart PER||On court +/-per 48 minutes||Off court +/-per 48 minutes||2 Year Adjusted +/-|
Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Odom, Gasol +165 in 665 (11.9 per 48)
Blake, Brown, Barnes, Odom, Gasol +65 in 139 (22.4 per 48)
Tossup, slight edge to the Lakers
The Spurs are coming off a rough loss to the Portland Trail Blazersin which LaMarcus Aldridge scored 40 points. Hopefully the Spurs are motivated by this subpar performance, because if they arenâ€™t, this “Rodeo Roadtrip” could get off to a very ugly start.
Of course, the Spurs currently have a 6.5 game cushion and staying healthy and finding the best playoff matchups are becoming increasingly more important, but the Lakers seem to be the Spurs most threatening rival. Although I donâ€™t place much credence in â€œsending a messageâ€, a loss tonight and a few more losses in their road trip preceding the all star game starts to make the one seed look kind of iffy.
The Lakers havenâ€™t impressed lately, but no one will ever take them lightly. I think the Spurs are better, and Bynumâ€™s absence should help, but home court seems to swing the advantage in the Lakers favor, if ever so slightly.
Although sending a message might not do much in terms of future wins and losses, a good game tonight could only help spark the national media attention this team has so richly deserved all season.