The Los Angeles Lakers have had an up-and-down experience in Orlando since the season resumed. The team has won against the Clippers and Jazz but also lost in blowout fashion against the Raptors and Thunder. On Wednesday, they trailed from start to finish for the first time all year while scoring a season-low 86 points in their loss to Oklahoma City.
In fact, the Lakers’ offense has been abysmal in four games since a four and a half month shutdown in the NBA season. Their 96.6 offensive rating is nearly six points per 100 possessions worse than the next-worst offense in the bubble. Their 50.7 true shooting percentage since the July 30th restart is also the worst in the league during that time.
Anthony Davis, however, is not worried. The big man (and his teammate LeBron James) brushed off any concerns about the team’s offense not being where it should be with just four more games to play until the playoffs citing that the team was “getting wide open looks.” The Lakers have made just 35 of their 139 3-point attempts in four games, good for 25.2 percent shooting from behind the arc.
While that’s not an excuse for the Lakers’ poor offensive outings, it’s also not an incorrect observation. In Orlando, the Lakers have shot just 23.8 percent on 14 “wide open” 3-point shot attempts per game classified as those with the nearest defender at least six feet away. That gets marginally better when incorporating their “open” (defender between four and six feet away) shots: 31% shooting on nearly 27 shots per game. Those shots have accounted for just about one-third of the Lakers’ total field goal attempts.
For comparison’s sake, for the entire season (on about the same frequency for open and wide-open 3-point attempts), the Lakers shot a much more palatable 36%. That’s still not a high number – the Lakers just are not a great 3-point shooting team – but that’s a decent target to attain given the team’s ability to score at the rim and at the free-throw line.
The location of these shot attempts matter as well, however. The Lakers are 13-of-38 or 34% from either corner but just 22-of-101 (21.8%) on above-the-break 3-pointers. That ratio of corner three (about 27% of total 3-point attempts) to above the break three is almost identical to their full-season statistics. Both percentages have dropped significantly, however, as for the season the Lakers have shot a blistering 40% from the corners and a paltry 33% on above-the-break threes.
While Davis is correct to point to the Lakers’ shooting struggles as the biggest factor in their losses, this cold shooting streak has done enough to give some concerns about the Lakers’ offense as a whole. Opposing defenses in the postseason will surely help off shooters on the wings or at the top of the key much more frequently than they will off shooters in the corners, leaving the Lakers desperate to hit open shots from those regions, something they have not done with nearly enough consistency. Frank Vogel will have to show some creativity both in devising more open looks from the corners and getting better shooters in positions where open shots will be available.
Between the awful shooting and some experimentation with new personnel, new ball-handlers and new sets, these losses and poor performances aren’t some sort of death knell for the Lakers’ playoff chances. After all, they had the fourth-best offensive rating heading into the bubble restart despite being a pretty average at best shooting team and Anthony Davis is correct in saying that they are creating good looks. But it is eye-opening enough that the coaching staff and the players need to find a solution when their opponents have time to gameplan and dissect these weaknesses.