Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Laker PG defense is suspect, as if you didn't know already

(Photo from YahooSports)
Well this sure is interesting. The defending champion Los Angeles Lakers have the second best record in the entire NBA. But after tonight's loss against the Mavericks, you have to second guess or at least take with a grain of salt, your pre season pick to repeat as champions or make the finals. Let's go through their significant losses and pick them apart a little bit:

The Losses

10/30/09 - loss to Dallas 94-80
Can you read into it? 2nd game with Ron Artest and no Pau Gasol, I'd give the Lakers a pass on this one but Marion did play good defense on Kobe that game.

11/13/09 - loss to Denver 105-79
Can you read into it? 2nd game of a back-to-back @ Denver, after handling the Suns at home. Still no Pau Gasol. But an 8 point 3rd quarter... unforgivable.

12/12/09 - loss to Utah 102-94
Can you read into it? 2nd game of a back-to-back @ Utah, after a 104-92 win over Minnesota at home. Full strength roster-wise. Just got out played. But they did beat them at home before the Minnesota game. Utah was better.

12/25/09 - loss to Cleveland 87-102
Can you read into it? Plenty of rest. Big stage. Cleveland was simply the better team.

12/28/09 - loss to Phoenix 103-118
Can you read into it? Ron Artest was out with a concussion. They were able to score but they weren't able to stop Phoenix from scoring.

1/12/10 - loss to San Antonio 85-105
Can you read into it? No Pau Gasol. No Kobe for the 4th quarter due to back spasms. That was pretty significant for this game.

1/21/10 loss to Cleveland 87-93
Can you read into it? Another game with plenty of rest. Full strength roster-wise. Tough call near the end of the game that could have been a 4-point swing when Artest was called for a foul that led to Varejao free throws when it could have gone the other way around. Still, Cleveland played great. LeBron played great. No Mo Williams.

2/5/10 loss to Denver 113-126
Can you read into it? Billups goes off with 9 3-pointers and 39 points. Lakers at full strength. Denver was the better team.

2/18/10 loss to Boston 87-86
Can you read into it? They kept it close and had a last second shot to win it, all with no Kobe. But they needed a last second shot from Kobe to win it in Boston a few weeks earlier.

2/24/10 loss to Dallas 96-101
Can you read into it? Full strength. Couldn't stop fouling a good free throw shooting team. Kept it close but took a bad 3 pointer with 25 seconds or so left. Dallas was without Caron Butler.

Records against these teams
Losing to:
Cleveland: 0-2
Denver: 0-2 (2 games remaining)
Tied with:
Dallas: 2-2
Boston: 1-1
San Antonio: 1-1 (2 games remaining)
Utah: 2-1 (1 game remaining)
Phoenix: 2-1 (1 game remaining)

What do all of these teams have in common? All of them have PGs that torture the Lakers.
Let's take a look:

The Point Guards

Who they're currently losing to:
Denver's Chauncey Billups: 20/3/6 this season VS. 22.5/3/8 vs Lakers (39/4/8 and 6/2/8)
Cleveland's Mo Williams: 16/3/5 this season VS. 28/6/7 vs Lakers (1 game- 12/25/09)

Who they're currently tied with:
Boston's Rajon Rondo: 14/4/10 this season VS. 17.5/5/11.5 vs Lakers (14/5/11 in win, 21/5/12 in loss - both games could have gone either way)
San Antonio's Tony Parker: 17/2/6 this season VS. 21/2/7 vs Lakers (22/2/6 in win, 20/2/8 in loss)
Dallas' Jason Kidd: 10/5/9 this season VS. 4/5/9 vs Lakers (2/4/11 and 14/7/13 in wins, 0/4/5 and 11/7/11 in losses)

Who they're currently beating:
Utah's Deron Williams: 18/4/10 this season VS. 16/5/10 vs Lakers (21/4/11 in the win against LA, 11/9/10 and 17/2/8 in the losses)

Phoenix's Steve Nash: 17/3/11 this season VS. 14/1/9
(16/3/13 in the win against LA, 12/0/10 and 13/0/5 in the losses)

My conclusion: PG defense is important and a weakness for the Lakers (no I'm not going to act like I discovered Plutonium, everyone should know that PG defense is important). Everyone's ears are probably bleeding about bloggers and sports writers writing about how the Lakes were trying to trade for Kirk Hinrich from the Bulls to get a PG on ball defender to slow down the league's top PGs. Everyone knows Derek Fisher is turning 35 going on 36 in August and can't keep up with the league's top PGs. In fact, Derek Fisher is on the lower end of starting PGs when it comes to defense.

So why does he start? Because the Lakers run a triangle offense that doesn't require a drive and kick type PG and the Lakers have 7 footers to help on defense for guards that beat the Laker guards to the basket. Only these guards are All Star guards who know to pass the ball to whoever those 7 footers leave for a dunk or an open shot (as pictured above!). But are the Lakers back up PGs that much of an upgrade? Farmar who's good at driving to the basket and can make some nice passes and can create his own shot, but his defense needs work. Shannon Brown takes some bad shots on offense but his defense is better than Fisher's and Farmar's, but not by much.

Then again, that's pretty much the only hole the Lakers have (well, that and their hit or miss bench play). It's hard to say that a team with Kobe and Gasol with Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom and past defensive player of the year and all star Ron Artest as your role players, will not make the finals. But Houston with Aaron Brooks and Denver with Chauncey Billups gave the Lakers trouble last year in the playoffs. Could Denver take the next step and dethrone them this year? We'll have to see how the next 2 games vs. Denver play out but you can almost guarantee that Billups is going to have an above average game when he plays the Lakers, as well as any other PG in the league.

(stats from Basketball Reference)


D.J. Foster said...

Good work man - like how you broke down everything with the averages.

KneeJerkNBA said...

For years, Phil Jackson teams have been getting torched by opposing PGs (remember Bibby against them in the infamous Western Conference Finals). Phil refuses to double or send help, leaving Derek Fisher out there on an island by himself.

You can't argue with the results, though. They keep winning rings.

My only concern with this year's Laker team is complacency. They've gone back to their old habit of taking games off.

ReadBetweenTheBaselines said...

DJ - thank you!

KneeJerk- I like how when the Lakers got former defensive player of the year as their PG, Gary Payton, they lose in the finals to Chauncey Billups who got finals MVP. Granted he was a few seasons away from those DPOY years...

KneeJerkNBA said...

I remember Payton just being absolutely clueless in the Triangle. He was still a decent defender but he just could not figure that offense out to save his life...and then he complained about it!

But I still think LA would have whupped those Pistons if Karl Malone didn't get hurt earlier in the playoffs.