The Los Angeles Lakers put in their best performance of the playoffs on Monday when they blew out the Portland Trail Blazers to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the first round series. Their 135 points scored are the second most in franchise history for the postseason.
After the game, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope listed the team’s higher pace as the leading cause for their offensive outpour, especially given that they had struggled on that end of the floor for much of the games played in the Orlando bubble. KCP may be on to something: the Lakers scored 25 fastbreak points in game four, their most since the 2001 NBA Finals.
KCP identifies pace as the leading cause for tonight's offensive performance. Says the team was intend on running in transition which help lead to easy 3s.
Pace has been a consistent theme all season even more so in the bubble.
— Harrison Sanford (@HarrisonSanford) August 25, 2020
Despite being an older team, pace has been a crucial part of the Lakers’ identity all season since they can often get bogged down and struggle in their half court offense. The Lakers were the 12th ranked team in pace through 63 games before the season was shut down and averaged the second most fastbreak points (19.2) per game accounting for 16.2 percent of their total points per game (also the second most in the league).
Since the start of the bubble, the Lakers found it harder to get out and run. In eight seeding games, they dropped to 13th in the NBA with just 12 fastbreak points per game, accounting for 11.3 percent of their total offense.
Game one of the playoffs saw the Lakers score just 93 points against a porous Blazers defense, in part due to the Lakers not converting their transition opportunities; despite scoring 15 fastbreak points, they were not efficient in their chances. Game two cratered to just seven fastbreak points but games three and four have seen 16 and 25 points scored in transition, respectively.
More than most teams, the Lakers seem to be a rhythm shooting team. They struggle when things slow down and they are expected to shoot off a post up with a set defense closing out on them. In more chaotic circumstances, they thrive and that leads to more confidence, especially from shooters like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope who has completely turned it around after an abysmal game one to make nine of his 18 3-point attempts in the last three games.
Upping the pace isn’t the sole reason behind the Lakers’ success offensively and it may not even be the most important one. But the Lakers are at their best when they create turnovers or block shots into quick offensive opportunities with arguable the best transition player of all time, LeBron James, leading the charge.