New York Knicks Stat Monkey Brief: Knicks/Lakers (12/13/12)

Expecting to see some Kobe scowls? So are the Knicks and their fourth best takeaway rate.

From ESPN Stats & Info, the Lakers are 0-3 when Kobe Bryant scores 40+ points. Interestingly, four other players have surpassed the 40-point plateau this season, and their teams are 4-0 in those games. One of those players is Carmelo Anthony, who dropped 45 points on Tuesday in the Knicks’ 100-97 win in Brooklyn.

But in Kobe’s case, even when he limits his scoring output to 30+, his team is an abysmal 1-10.

So what’s wrong with the Lakers?

Although Kobe at times seems to forget he has four other teammates on the floor, he isn’t to blame for the Lakers’ struggles. Kobe’s scoring has been a reaction to his team’s deficits, not the cause. For instance, in his first 40-point game on November 2nd, the Lakers trailed the Clippers by 15 entering the fourth quarter. So in the final quarter, Kobe put up eight shots from the field, hitting seven of them en route to 17 points, but the Lakers still lost by 10. In his other two 40+ point games, the Lakers averaged an 11-point halftime deficit, and Kobe averaged 25.0 second half points in an effort to lead a late-game L.A. surge, both of which ultimately fell short.

So Kobe needs much more help from his Laker teammates, particularly from the free throw line and in transition defense, if L.A. has hopes of leaving Madison Square Garden with a win.

Free Throws

The Lakers are second in the league in free throw factor (free throws made per field goal attempt), a measure of both how often a team gets to the line and how often they make them. Unfortunately, the Lakers’ abundance of free throw attempts has not benefited them, as LA is 29th in the league with a horrendous 67.5% free throw percentage.

Much of the blame for this poor percentage falls on Dwight Howard, who leads the NBA with 242 free throw attempts, 37 more than the next highest total, yet is shooting a horrific 48.8%. Dwight shot a respectable 5-for-7 from the line last Friday when the Lakers lost a tight game in Oklahoma City. He’ll need a similar or better percentage from the charity stripe tonight for the Lakers to have a chance against the East-leading Knicks.

Transition Defense

In a recent interview with Stephen A. Smith, Kobe cited transition defense as a major cause of the Lakers’ woes. Well, why not try to keep opponents out of transition opportunities entirely? To do so, the Lakers must take better care of the ball.

They are 29th in the league in turnover rate, committing about 15.1 turnovers per 100 plays. Meanwhile, the Knicks generate about 15.5 takeaways per 100 opponent plays, the fourth best rate in the NBA. So if New York can continue creating turnovers and making plays in transition tonight, the Lakers can look forward to Kobe’s ostentatious scowling after the game.