Philadelphia 76ers Stat Monkey Brief: Sixers/Lakers (12/16/12)

Even with Howard, the Lakers have defensive issues. But can a Holiday-less Sixers take advantage?

If you're looking for the Lakers Offense and Sixers Defense on this game, go to Andrew Sugars's piece here: Los Angeles Lakers Stat Brief

Raise your hand if you thought, with a quarter of the season in the books, the Sixers would have a better record than the Lakers despite Andrew Bynum not playing a single game and Dwight Howard having yet to miss one. I didn’t think so. While Steve Nash’s broken leg and Pau Gasol’s soiled big boy pants have something to do with the Lakers struggles, much of the blame for LA’s malaise can be placed on the team’s defensive performance.

Lakers Defense

Looking at Dwight Howard’s track record, it’s hard to believe he’s anchoring the 18th-ranked defense in the league. In Orlando, he turned teams that featured guys like Hedo Turkoglu, Vince Carter and Jameer Nelson into stingy defensive units. Still, even with Howard’s menacing presence at the rim, teams have been attacking the Lakers’ interior. 32 percent of their opponents’ shots have come from close range. Howard’s tendency to foul this year - his 3.8 fouls per game is the highest mark of his career - and his less-than-healthy back could a be the reason teams aren’t afraid to take it to the hole. Not all of the defensive blame should be heaped on Dwight. After all, his blocks per 36 minutes are as good as ever.

One of the biggest factors in the Lakers’ slow start is their lackadaisical transition D. They are allowing opponents to get shots up in the first 10 seconds of the shot clock on 39 percent of possessions, while giving up a 51.4 effective field goal percentage on those attempts. The effort they’ve made to be an up-tempo offensive squad is negated by not getting back to defend their own rim.

Sixers Offense

The Sixers aren’t exactly the best-equipped team to take advantage of the Lakers’ defensive issues. They’ve been very inefficient on offense this season; their 101.5 offensive rating ranks 27th in the league. A lot of that has to do with them simply not getting to the free throw line. The Sixers are 26th in the league in free throw attempts, and 29th in free throw attempts per field goal attempt. That’s not going to get any better with Jrue Holiday on the shelf; the point guard is the team leader in free throw attempts, despite only getting to the line 3.6 times per game.

The Sixers’ slow-down offense (26th in pace) also plays into the Lakers’ strength on defense. The longer teams take to shoot the ball against LA, the worse they shoot. Per, the Lakers allow an eFG% of 45.3 between 16-20 seconds into the shot clock and 41.9 in the last four seconds of the clock. The Sixers take more than a third of their shots - about 36 percent - during the last eight seconds of the shot clock. While it may be tough without their quarterback on offense, the Sixers would be best served to pick up the pace and get shots up earlier in the shot clock.