Lakers Winning With Defense

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HANG TIME NEW JERSEY BUREAU – Entering their marquee matchup with the Clippers on Saturday (10:30 p.m. ET, NBA TV), the Lakers have won five straight games to climb to second place in the Western Conference.

The headlines will tell you that Kobe Bryant has scored 40-plus points in each of the last three, and the speculation will tell you that he’s trying to prove to Dwight Howard that he’s still got it. But the numbers tell you that the Lakers are winning games on the other end of the floor.

Through Friday, the Lakers rank just 14th in offensive efficiency, scoring 100.3 points per 100 possessions, barely above the league average of 99.9. And during this five-game winning streak, with Bryant averaging 39 points and shooting 50 percent, they’ve actually scored less than 99 points per 100 possessions. Translation: Their offense, even with Kobe going off, has been pretty mediocre.

On the other end of the floor, the Lakers rank fourth in the league, allowing their opponents to score just 94.8 points per 100 possessions. And over the last five games, the Laker D has been downright stifling, allowing less than 90 points per 100 possessions.

Of course, only one of the Lakers’ last five opponents (Phoenix) has been an above-average offensive team thus far. But the Lakers have held the five to an average of nine points per 100 possessions below their season mark.

Efficiency of last five Laker opponents

Date Opp. OffRtg vs. LAL Diff.
1/6 vs. Golden State 99.1 94.4 -4.7
1/8 vs. Memphis 95.1 84.2 -10.9
1/10 vs. Phoenix 102.3 95.1 -7.2
1/11 at Utah 98.4 86.1 -12.3
1/13 vs. Cleveland 99.0 89.3 -9.7
Average 98.8 89.7 -9.2

OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions for the season

It was thought that the Lakers’ defense might suffer with the departure of Lamar Odom, who had the lowest on-court defensive efficiency number of any Laker rotation player over the last three seasons. (From 2009-10 through last season, the Lakers allowed just 99.8 points per 100 possessions in Odom’s 7,539 minutes.)

But new head coach Mike Brown has seemingly made up for Odom’s absence. In fact, the Lakers were a top-five defense already when Andrew Bynum (their second-most important defender over the last few years) returned from his four-game suspension.

The Lakers’ defense is strong in almost every statistical category. It ranks fourth in defending 2-point shots, sixth in defending 3-point shots, third in defensive rebounding percentage, and ninth in opponent free throw rate.

The only thing the Lakers don’t do well defensively is force turnovers. In fact, they rank 29th by forcing only 13.1 turnovers per 100 possessions.

Ironically, the Clippers’ offense ranks second by committing only 13.8 turnovers per 100 possessions. Overall, though it’s been pretty inconsistent through eight games, Chris Paul‘s new team ranks sixth offensively, scoring 104.2 points per 100 possessions.

So Saturday’s matchup will be offense vs. defense. And no matter how many points that Bryant scores, it will likely be the Lakers’ defense that puts them in position to win the game.

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John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Send him an e-mail or follow him on twitter.

49 Comments

  1. Cao says:

    How many 3-pointers did Kobe shot through the season so far?
    You are talking about a man that scored 40 or more 4 games in a row…,and altough he had a weak game against Mavs…, he still has the thing to break every defense in the league. His percentage isn’t something of a great but i’m sure he will do his outmost when the time is right. You also need to know that the Lakers never played so much games in 3 weeks like all the other teams. Defense is amazing so far!

    Boston Celtics to…,they are struggling real bad,but i’m sure that they will go further than everybody sees them right now,

    • LOL says:

      Break every defense in the league? Do you even WATCH these games?? Kobe can BARELY even get past most of the defenders thrown at him now, his quickness is NOTHING like it used to be. Why do you think he shoots so many jumpshots? You can see it. He’ll even throw fakes in most of the time, and most of the quicker defenders on him just stay right with him. He can’t get by them like he used to, and SURELY cant break every defense in the league. Quit livin in Kobes prime, because he’s no longer there, he’s been WELL past that for a few years.

  2. Celtics17 says:

    Kobe should stop with all the 3 point shots if his wrist is so bad. Kobe is only shooting .254% on three pointers so far this season if that continues that will hurt the Lakers in the long run.

  3. LOL says:

    Well the Lakers D sure didnt have nuttin for the Clps though now did they?

  4. Jj Gatz says:

    lakerz….willl still a chapionship contender…..u knew it that its their on legacy…..legacy continues……lakers gogo…..go for 17 champ…kobe go for 6 ring………yeah…bye bye dallas…. its just your luck….

  5. kobeist says:

    yeah…obviously kobe-hater, with the lakers winning,he has still something to throw against kobe,,,i think he’s getting paid by le-choke?dude get over it,,,write something sensible and non-biased article,you’re up to something not good for you..

  6. i love NBA says:

    who said kobe is the 7th best player on the nba? are you out of your mind or just a hater?

  7. Bulls says:

    I think the Lakers needs to get D-Will. :D

  8. weewin says:

    Kobe is the best player ever.

  9. Bill says:

    The Laker offense has NOT been very good this year. As the statistics reveal, overall they are a poor offensive team.

    Why? Because the starters, who in fact are an imposing offensive force, can’t play 48 minutes every night and when the 2nd unit comes on the court that Lakers might not be able to score if their opponents sat down. It is painful to watch the Lakers this year when the 2nd team is on.

    Anyone but me think we miss Lamar?

  10. Drose-Kobe-Durant says:

    Cp3 should have gone to a better team. Lob city will never get past ring city if they sneak into the playoffs

  11. Ryan says:

    lakers are winning because of Kobe and their defense, mainly kobe, because without kobe it doesnt matter how great of defense they are playing, the rest of the lakers are not carrying the load offensively especially the bench, this last game against the warriors? bench only made 1-2 fg’s this past game, thats just pathetic. admit it, kobe is still the top dawg in the nba, you guys write him off every year and he still pulls through to show why he is better than lebron. they fail to realize lebron plays of physical ability and not raw skill alone, lebron will be nothing as good as kobe when he’s 33, give kobe his credit schumann, without him on that lakers squad they would be well under .500

  12. Ao1 says:

    Kobe will finish with an average of 30+ point per game this season. Then finish with 8 championship rings in his career… He will be listed as 2nd to MJ.

  13. Dylan says:

    Kobe, Paul, Griffin, Bynum, for West starter!!!

  14. Dylan says:

    For once, I am seeing an article with all the comments actually making sense. Lakers have a lot of work to do in the next few years, because I’m smelling Kobe;s retirement. If they want to continue being the best team of all time, then they need to get another young all-star and build their team around him. Basically, doing what they did with Kobe 15 years ago. If they keep on doing that, the Lakers will be unbeatable forever.

    Thumbs up for Clippers for finally building a good roster.

    Good luck to both teams this year, can`t wait to watch today`s game.

  15. Baha says:

    Kobe is the reason why Lakers are so good…he is the only player to have scored 40+ points 3 games in a raw this year….dude is 33 and still balling….how many players like that are in NBA right now….none….+ 5 championships….+ injuries he plays with…how many more examples do we need….Kobe is the beast….who can score from anywhere….he is the only player compared to MJ not just by fans but by the dude who coached them both…he is even considered better shooter than MJ by Phil Jackson who knows about MJs game better than anyone else….one thing fo show fatcs are facts and thats what separates Kobe from LJ, KD, DW, DR, ….and whoever out there…

  16. Liam P. De Valency says:

    If anything, all I see from Lakers now is like the old Cavs team: good defense, but offense runs too much on star player (back then was LeBron). Sure they will accomplish much in season. But probably some problems in playoffs if they continue to rely on Kobe too much.

    • sbfern says:

      True and completely different! Lebron did not have another clutch shooter or finisher or a valuable player when the game was on the line… Lakers have Fisher ( who has porven time after time that he is not afraid to shoot), Gasol and Bynum and very talented and can create their own shot. Kobe has more options than what Lebron had. Hunger is back in LA and their is something to strive for…something that was lost after the second championship. the BLACK MAMBA MVP!!!

  17. mrspydaman says:

    Blake is a major part of what has happenned so far. How could you possibly analyze the lakers without watching them? If John had he would not criticize the bench, what bench Coach Brown has been using subs in an on the job tryout and the starters have been playing the for the W’s. I bet the non starters (except blake) are not even sure what games they will play in. I hope this is the case because it is all I could come up with to explain the rotations. The clippers are a very athletic work in progress and actually has strengths were the lakers weaknesses are so this should be a good game.

  18. chillll says:

    is kobe gonna play 48 minutes and guard 5 players at a time? No. Is he gonna score 100 points tonight? No. Is he gonna force 15 turnovers or get 40 rebounds? No. Schuman is just saying the Lakers as a whole have been playing great defense and thats why their winning, and that defense is gonna get them the win tonight just like the numbers have been showing over the past 5 games. he’s not a kobe-hater, chill out

  19. @darealmikevegas(twitter) says:

    kobe is like wine….he never gets older, he only gets better

  20. mikeg says:

    The lakers need to trade WorldPeace. He changed his name and lost his game. Maybe, he will be good for a team like the Charlotte Bobcats, but not LA. Derek Fisher should retire. He is a warrior but he has lost too much to play on a team like LA and be effective in the way they need him to be. LA’s bench SUCK! We definitely need to pursue a good bench in order to be in the runnings for the finals. Mike Brown is doing a good job…. People are going to continue to hate on Kobe, because he is the best and they know it. Charles Barkley doesnt like Kobe, because he is jealous. (he never got a ring) He is a commentator that makes it obvious of his dislike of Kobe. This is why he couldnt wait to say that LeBron was the best in the world. Where will Lebron be when he has 15 years in the league. Can he sustain for 15 years? Kobe doesnt have a choice but to shoot in order to have a good chance to win. Too many people are afraid to shoot or just cant shoot under pressure. Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant has been the best 2 players to play in the NBA in the past 20 years. Everyone that understands basketball and honest will admit it. The problem is, people wont be honest,,,,not even with themselves…including commentators and some media. If Kobe wouldnt have gotten in trouble and personality was different when he was younger, he would have been loved as much or more than Mike. The problem is, everyone has always put Mike on a pedestal. He was a great player, but not no different than Kobe. He put up as many shots per game or more and they are on the same playing field as players. No different. I watched Mike and enjoyed every minute, so I am one speaking from the experience of watching both. KOBE HATERS….WHEN ARE YOU ALL GOING TO BE HONEST AND STOP HATING. They did the same thing with JESUS… think about it!

  21. Lakerstrike says:

    Only flaw in the article is not giving KOBE the credit he deserves for his spectacular start to the season.

    Clips are playing very good basketball, but they are not ready to be placed on the list of top five teams in the league. Chris Paul is a great player, but just lobbing to Blake and Jordan isn’t gonna get it do in the Playoffs. Blake needs to work hard on his low post game and his play from the triple threat position. He is still much too raw, but certainly will get much better. Maybe he is will come over to the right LA team when he has those skills in place. :)

    For this Game and the season, LAKERS all the way.

    KOBE IS THE BEST PLAYER IN THE LEAGUE!!!

    • BushaF says:

      I think all this hate coming Kobe’s way is actually a good thing. He actually plays allot better since they “told him” he was the 7th best player ( best joke i have read), so i would like to thank the haters for making the Lakers a better team and Kobe better player :). the Mamba has 4-5 more good years in this game 4 sure. AND YOU HEAR IT FIRST FROM ME, HE IS MVP THIS YEAR :)

      For this Game and the season, LAKERS all the way.

      KOBE IS THE BEST PLAYER IN THE LEAGUE!!!

  22. dreadyjun says:

    What I’m reading in all this is no matter how good the Lakers are going, this writer will always find something negative to write about Kobe. Dude get over it please.

  23. Stan says:

    The lakers dont need dwight….maybe they need a better starting PG, but what they need more than anything is some good quality bench players….the Reason why the lakers dont blow people out is because the bench comes in and scores nothing, which allows other teams to get back in the game. METTA has lost his offense badly….then we have too many shooters that need setting up coming off the bench. We need a pure scorer and a distributor (that has great penatraion) to come off the bench…I think Goudelock can be both, becuase he was that in college, but he is always afraid to shoot. He has no confidence in his game. We need more people off the bench that can create their own shot. We have to make a trade for a bench, not another all-star. We should trade draft picks and some of our many set shooters for some decent point guards and shooting guards to come off the bench. If we get a good bench, we will be hard to beat, because our starting line-up usually dominates other teams, but other teams have better benches. We are going to have 3 all-stars in the starting line-up this year. JUST NEED A BENCH.

    • Sipap says:

      I totally agree.

    • LakersWillWin says:

      I totally agree. I thought Blake was having an awesome year thus far. He has his confidence back. Its a real shame he got injured though. All in the name of the game though unfortunately.

  24. aldayalnight says:

    “Lob City” huh, i guess that makes our nickname “Ring City”! Go Lakers!!

  25. Shuurmann Sucks says:

    It makes me sick to see a Kobe-hater / LeBieber-Lover forcing us to believe that Kobe doesn’t have credit on the Lakers streak.

  26. Victor says:

    This post is pure crap.. this guy is a kobe hater and a real bad nba analyst! JOHN SHUGIRL , you need to admit it , kobe is 2nd best player of all time!

  27. big o says:

    I have to admit that I gave up on the lakers succeeding in the playoffs this year at the beginning of the season . but they seem to be getting over the media distractions and are finally enjoying the game of basketball once again. pau gasol in particular. i wish them good luck this playoff season because they will need it with that bench of theirs.

  28. redman says:

    people underestimating the lakers wayy to much. they are the best team in the best. oklahoma city is a threat, but the lakers have the best playoff experience, and the right players on their team.

  29. Asfder says:

    “ninth in opponent free throw rate” haha they should work on that

  30. NBA says:

    The Lakers are a good team. I think they really were underestimated at the beginning of the season, and they still are. If you look, these annalists who think they everything thought the Miami Heat were going to win it all in last years’ finals. But what happend, they were wrong, as always. I do think the Lakers are a top 3-4 team in the west, and they can serious contenders for the title in the years to come. I predict the Battle of LA goes to the LA Lakers. Just because the clippers just don’t have the defense and rebounding. The Lakers will finish 46-20

  31. ronda says:

    This year Lakers are not the team to beat. Without S.Brown a lot of things are changed but we will notice it in the post season.
    No ring for this year, again.

  32. kobemvp25 says:

    lakers all the way………………and to all u lebum diccriders kobe is the best

  33. redman says:

    lakers and kobe are beast

  34. Anonymous says:

    Nice read. I’d tell you how obvious youre hatred for kobe is but you probably already know. Nonetheless, not just lakers, but every team wins with defense. If lakers lose, its most likely because either clips had better defense or lakers didnt work hard enough on D.

    And for kobe averaging 40 points. He’s taking shots he gets good looks on. That’s why his fg% throughout games is always around 50% and never some explosive night. It’s been easier for kobe to get his shot up without the triangle offense but I think he should create for the rest of the lakers. I would rather have kobe consecutively drop 40s in the playoffs than this early in the sesason.

    • Paul says:

      I think it’s more than that, I have been watching these games. Kobe are not hitting easy shots. He just makes it look easy.

  35. ChrisBrown says:

    @random nba fan i don’t know about the flirting 50-win season, i think you’re underestimating the Lakers. I can’t tell you how well are they against the likes of Miami and OKC but i doubt it it will be more than a 50-win season that they can achieve, maybe WCF or even the Finals but who can tell. I guess it will be seen on their schedule against Clippers, Dallas, Miami and Orlando maybe then we can measure how well are they playing.

    • Mark says:

      “I think you’re underestimating the Lakers?” I think you mean overestimating.

      Anyway, the Lakers are ballin’. And people can make the excuse that it’s Kobe that’s winning the games for them. This article states otherwise. I expect a good game tonight, but for the Lakeshow to come out on top (like it’s always been, and always will be until Kobe retires). Either way, it’s gonna be a great game.

      • Jones17 says:

        The article is only partially right. Kobe is the main reason we are winning games at the moment. Every time Kobe defers to anyone else to score points, we are having empty trips. As good as Bynum has been playing, he’s not in the same league as Howard and i would try and make that trade as soon as possible.

      • LOL says:

        Right because they didnt get swept outta the playoffs last year or anything.

  36. The Lakers’ defense has been very good so far this season. If they can keep up their defensive intensity and make continual improvement on the offensive end as the season progresses, the Lakers just might flirt with a 50-win season.

    Next up for the Lakers is a matchup with Chris Paul and the Los Angeles Clippers in this week’s NBA Game of the Week (http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/news?slug=ycn-10810049). And as John alluded to, rebounds and turnovers will be major factors in determining who wins this game. The team that controls the boards and protects the ball will put themselves in position to walk away from the Staples Center with a victory tonight.