Los Angeles Lakers Stat Monkey Brief: Lakers/Thunder (12/7/12)
If you're looking for the Thunder perspective on this game, go to Matt Keith's piece here: Oklahoma City Thunder Stat Brief
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On Wednesday night, Kobe Bryant joined the holy grail of legendary scorers becoming the youngest player in NBA history to reach the 30,000-point barrier. As incredible a scorer as he is, Kobe will always be remembered by his do-whatever-it-takes-to-win attitude and the five rings to go along with it. But when the Lakers head into Friday night’s showdown against the Northwest-division leading Oklahoma City Thunder, it’ll take a tremendous effort from the entire squad, not just Kobe, to pull out a win. The fact is, the effort has been lacking lately, especially on the defensive end. If the Lakers have any chance winning Friday night, they’ll need to sure up their defense, most notably in transition, and that starts with limiting turnovers against this explosive Thunder offense.
To be blunt, turnovers have been killing the Lakers this year. In fact, if you take into account expected wins vs. losses, which is formulated by a wins and losses algorithm, the Lakers should be 12-7. Digging into their advanced metrics, the Lakers rank top 10 in the league in effective field percentage, rebounding, and free throw factors. So the Lakers are efficient, both offensively and defensively, clean up the boards, and get to the line more than any other NBA team. Yet, they remain just 9-10 on the young season.
Much of this can be due to the fact the Lakers can’t hold on to the ball- ranking 29th and 27th in the NBA in offensive and defensive turnover percentage respectively. If you turn the ball over as frequently as the Lakers do, and don’t force the opponent to do the same, it’s difficult to stay in ball games.
The Lakers come into Friday night’s match-up attempting to slow down one of the league’s most potent offensive attacks in OKC. The Thunder lead the league in both offensive rating at 113.3 and points per game at 105.7. More surprising is how well they’re shooting the ball this year compared to last; the Thunder top the NBA in three point percentage, free throw shooting, and effective field goal percentage. The Thunder also do a great job scoring on the fast break, averaging nearly 16 points per game in transition. The Lakers typically struggle defending against fast break points, but they’ll need to contain the transition offense of the Thunder and force them into a slower, half court affair.