Advanced Scouting: Los Angeles Lakers at San Antonio Spurs

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Los Angeles Lakers at San Antonio Spurs 7:30 CST December 28, 2010

SRS ranks:

LA Lakers: 5.16 (5th)
San Antonio: 7.62 (3rd)

Key Player Statistics (courtesy of 82games.com (effective December 15, 2010) and basketballvalue.com (effective December 26, 2010):

PlayerFraction of teams minutesPER minus Counterpart PEROn court +/-per 48 minutesOff court +/-per 48 minutes2 Year Adjusted +/-
Gasol0.8112.213.1-13.43.27
Odom0.747.511.9-2.63.67
Bryant0.6914.48.66.93.77
Artest0.58-5.48.47.62.1
Fisher0.56-1111.43.8-2.03
Bynum*0.512.17.9-3.40.44
Barnes0.445.97.28.82.28
Brown0.49.57.38.6-4.88
Blake0.39-106.19.4-0.68

*reflects figures in 2009/10
Most valuable/utilized lineups:

Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Odom, Gasol: +151 in 566 minutes (12.8 per 48 minutes)
Blake, Brown, Barnes, Odom, Gasol: +76 in 101 minutes (36.1 per 48 minutes)

2009-10:
Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol, Bynum: +166 in 650 minutes (12.3 per 48 minutes)

Preferred method to create shots: The Triangle

The staple of any Phil Jackson team has long been the triangle offense. The triangle offense relies on creating space and options for skilled scorers to operate. This set produces opportunities to read and pick apart a defense, resulting in many mismatches and easy scores. This video describes the current version of the Lakers triangle offense.

The Lakers can produce offense efficiently in a variety of ways. Even without Andrew Bynum, the Lakers are scoring 20.5 PPG on possessions derived from the post, tops in the league according to figures provided by Synergy Sports. The Lakers also score 10.0 PPG on possessions beginning with Kobe Bryant in isolation sets. No other individual player is responsible for more such scores. In addition, the abilities of Bryant and Pau Gasol have contributed to many easy scores for others. The Lakers score 14.6 PPG from cuts, second behind only the Magic. (A couple of these scores started as isolation or post possessions.)

Appropriate Spurs counter: Entice Kobe to take difficult shots and play Duncan on Gasol

There are so many things that the Lakers do that can hurt you offensively that you really have to pick your poison. Kobe Bryant has possibly made more difficult jump shots than any player in the history of the game, but it’s when he gets inside of 15 feet that he becomes really dangerous. Although he isn’t the athlete he used to be, Bryant is so clever that he is still able to get to the free throw line often. His defender should be very careful not to bite on any of his fakes.

Bryant typically shoots over 40% on long two pointers, a solid rate, but these shot types are often inefficient and should be reserved for late in the shot clock (unless uncontested). To illustrate the importance of contesting Kobe’s jump shot, we can look at his conversion rates for catch and shoot field goal attempts.

Kobe has converted 50% of “unguarded” catch and shoot opportunities in 240 attempts over since 2008-09 (with an effective FG% of over 66%.) When Kobe takes the same shot classified as “guarded”, his field goal percentage falls to just shy of 35% with and effective FG% below 45% in 452 attempts. If the Spurs can entice Kobe to take these shots, it should benefit them more often than not. Of course, contesting his shots leaves you susceptible to committing fouls or being beat on the drive. The Spurs defender should always know where help on the drive is coming from and to not leave his feet on the contested shot.

George Hill and Manu Ginobili are the Spurs defenders who have shared the primary responsibility for defending Kobe in the post-Bowen era. Since Hill’s rookie year, Ginobili has allowed a very respectable 0.81 points per possession (PPP) when defending isolation plays. Hill has allowed a poor rate of 1.11 PPP. In addition, Ginobili is taller than Hill and should present a more suitable option to defend Kobe in the post, preferably with some help defense.

With Bynum back, the Lakers become an even more difficult team to match defensively. The Spurs should hesitate to double Kobe outside of 15 feet to avoid the risk of an easy score from one of the Lakers bigs.

Pau Gasol, the Lakers other key offensive weapon, is the Lakers best option in the post. Duncan has been the primary defender of Gasol, especially since Pau came to LA in the middle of the 2007-08 season. Duncan has held the edge in this exciting individual matchup thus far. In 69 post possessions, Gasol has only scored 50 points against Duncan. By comparison, Duncan has scored a respectable 91 points over 98 possessions when defended by Gasol. This is still a small sample size, but could provide the Spurs with some reason for optimism.

With all the bigs the Lakers have at their disposal, the more Duncan is able to guard Gasol without help, the better chance it provides the Spurs for coming away with the win.

Defensive Weakness: Attack Fisher on the pick and roll and push the ball

The Lakers allow 14 transition possessions per game this year, the 9th most in the NBA. With Bynum recently returning from injury, running the break could be more an even more effective method to score on the Lakers.

The Spurs fast break has cooled as of late and San Antonio now ranks near the middle of the pack with 13.3 fast break possessions per game. However, they still have the pieces to run when the Lakers use big lineups.

In addition to running the break, the Spurs should find more scoring opportunities against Derek Fisher in the pick and roll. Over the past few seasons, Fisher has allowed over 1.00 PPP when defending the pick and roll ballhandler, typically ranking in the bottom 25% of the league. Tony Parker and, to a lesser extent George Hill, should be used frequently to test Fisher on this play.

Finally, the Lakers excel at defending the post and figure to improve with the return of Bynum. However, if the Spurs do attempt to establish the post, Gasol is the best target. Although Gasol isn’t the worst post defender (his Synergy numbers generally place him slightly below average), he is significantly worse than both Odom and Bynum at defending post scorers. Since 2007-08 Gasol has allowed 0.89 PPP defending the post whereas Odom has allowed 0.84 PPP and Bynum has allowed 0.71 PPP.

Conclusion

The two time defending champs are coming off consecutive embarrassing losses against the Bucks and the Heat. The Spurs are currently 5 games better than the Lakers and are deserving of the top record in the West. I don’t know that I can say I think a fully healthy Spurs team is better than a fully healthy Lakers team, but I do think the Spurs have played well enough to be favored in nearly every home matchup. I don’t have to tell anyone how tough this game can be, but I think the odds are once again in the Spurs favor.

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  • Carlos Martin

    Go Spurs !!!!!!!!!!!!! Beat the Fakers

  • rob

    Spurs 114 – Lakers 108

  • ayatollah

    it’s the bucks and the heat. not the grizzlies.
    anyway, Go Spurs Go!

  • Costin (Romania)

    The losses were against bucks and heat, not grizzlies…
    Beside that a very good post….

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  • zainn

    blair said in an interview yesterday that him and timmy had a talk about playing together, so we may see some good stuff from them two tonight GO SPURS GO!!

  • Rafa

    I’ll be attending this game tonight. I couldn’t be more excited! I think our boys will show up tonight. If we win tonight we make a statement; we all know that. So, let’s see what we’re truly made of this year.
    GO SPURS GO!

  • DBAGuy

    uhmm… I don’t think either team will score 100+.
    The outcome of the game will depend on wether the Spurs defense shows up and our 3-point shooting. I also think we will need a heavy dose of McDyess tonight against Odom, Blair is too short for him. I say Spurs win 96-87

  • ITGuy

    93-90
    Spurs win!!

    Go Spurs Go!!

  • http://www.48minutesofhell.com Len

    This game has the makings of being really competitive and entertaining.

    As noted, LA has lost two games in a row and is 5 back of SA in the standings. Kobe is officially on record as saying he’s frustrated and needs more from his teammates. LA’s schedule from this point forward is very tough. I think LA will give everything they’ve got to win this game. They literally could be putting all their marbles into winning this game if they seriously want to compete for one of the top 2 spots out West.

    I hope and pray Pop and the team are mentally and physically prepared for this game. I couldn’t be more excited. Go Spurs Go!

  • jwalt

    The key guy to me is Lamar Odom. If he kills whoever is guarding him, as he has in the past, then the Lakers will be tough to beat. If he has a quiet game then the Spurs should win.

    Also, Parker effectively penetrating will go a long way, as will George Hill playing well.

    When Hill is a positive influence (which he is about 85% of the time), the Spurs are a beast.

    Dang, a big game and I don’t see either Manu or Tim as being keys to the game. The Spurs ARE better!

  • Hunter

    This will be a good game i think duncan gets 30 ginobli gets 26
    parker gets 16
    hill gets 18
    blair gets 12
    jefferson gets a supprising 24 as the spurs win 112 104

  • Mason

    Predicting a Spurs loss tonite. Not really confident on Spurs defense. I saw the Heat play some really good D on Pau on Kobe but don’t think we can replicate that effort tonite. Pau will probably shoot 10-12 or something just as ridiculous and Kobe will net 30.

  • ITGuy

    That’s a pantload.

  • Tyler

    @ Hunter

    Might want to work out the math on your prediction there…

  • Dr. Leonard McCoy

    Damnit Jim! I’m an old country doctor, not a psychic! I’d hate to agree with Mason’s post, but the Spurs WILL be in for a LONG night! I believe that it will be like going into a hornet’s nest were the bears just stole their honey not once, but twice! I’m sure these guys are MAD, & want to send a message to the rest of the NBA that we are STILL the chumps… oops I mean the champs. Sorry. NOT! And what better team to do that with than with the team with the BEST record right now. I believe that the Spurs WILL have to play practially flawless basketball, excecuting their plays, playing GREAT defense; fast breaking & hitting their shots from beyond the arc. I believe that the Fakers, OOPS, I mean Lakers, will want to jump out of the gate trying to make a point by trying to score early & often, & we may even see some of that smothering defense, that may cause turnovers, which they WILL captialize off of. I can see Ron “The Thug” Artest on Ginobli to pester. Kobe IS going to have a GREAT night because he’s livid right now. And let’s not hope that the Killer B’s don’t have a great night of scoring from the arc either. Duncan WILL have to play extended minutes in this game against Gasol. Odom will be a handfull unless McDyess, Blair & even Splitter can TRY to slow him down. Oh yea, I’m just an ol’ country doctor & I DON’T make perdictions, but if the Spurs are focused & pumped up for this game, then there’s a chance, barring that they play SMART basketball. BRING ON THE FAKERS & GIT ONE FOR THA THUMB! Sorry. Lakers. NOT!

  • vincegarcia

    tough game. who remains focused will win. remeber the lakers have lulls in scoring and has the propensity of losing the ball. they get zombied at the start of the 3rd quarter and seem to not recover till middle of the 4th but then it is kindna too late.
    if the spurs will not commit too much turn overs, have good shooting percentage and defend decently, they will win by 6 or 8 points.
    let splitter guard odom and mcdyess guard gasol.
    i will let the 3pt shooters have their way, since the lakers are lazy to defend the perimeter shooters.
    i will have to get ron artest and odom into early foul trouble, so the laker defend would soften up a bit.
    dont let the bench players get into a soring rhythm or else it might be a long night for the spurs

  • rob

    Good call DBAGuy

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