There were plenty of things not to like about what the Lakers did offensively in Sunday's Game 4 loss to New Orleans, starting with a decided lack of movement as the game went along, and a total inability as a team to knock down important jumpers.Harry How/Getty Images
"I'll bet you we don't take more than 10 shots between us in the second half." "Deal."
We also noted the lack of inside-out play, and a lack of commitment to working the post. The numbers there were stark. Via ESPN Stats & Information, the Lakers came into Game 4 averaging 18.6 post plays per game, on which they earned .98 points per play on 52.4 percent from the floor. On Sunday, the Lakers only had 12 post plays, including two in the second half. This despite a high level of success (1.42 points per play, 71.4 percent shooting) when they did get the ball to the post.
Over the course of the second half, the Lakers became extremely Kobe Bryant-centric, and while he continued moving the ball, it also changed the offense into a decidedly outside-in operation without nearly enough variety. The Lakers didn't -- couldn't? -- figure out ways to work Bryant away from the ball or get him into the post, and it hurt. For that, blame can be spread from the coaches to Kobe to his teammates. However the blame pie is sliced and served, touches for the rest of the group within the flow of the offense shrank precipitously. Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum weren't a factor -- Pau had only six FGAs after the first quarter, and Bynum had six in the second half (not a monstrous number), three coming while Kobe was on the bench.
Some of the credit goes to New Orleans, which made it tough for the Lakers to get inside. Much of the blame goes to the Lakers for losing their commitment to interior play, aided by the aforementioned inability to hit perimeter shots to open up the floor.
Regarding their work on Chris Paul, Stats & Information had another interesting nugget to offer:
The best defender the Lakers had on CP3 on Sunday night, at least measured by Paul's scoring output, was Derek Fisher. Paul was 1-for-7 against Fisher for five points, plus eight assists. Against everyone else (that includes Bynum, who filled the role, played by Gasol in Game 1, of "big who too often found himself on the wrong end of a P and R switch"), CP3 was 6-of-7 for 22 points, along with seven assists.
The sample sizes aren't huge, and don't necessarily tell the story. Steve Blake, for example, had a couple of turns on Paul on which I thought he did about as much as one player can, but Paul scored anyway. The point shouldn't be that Fisher is somehow L.A.'s "Paul Stopper," but to note how defense against a player of his caliber is a team exercise. It's not as simple as saying Fish can't keep up with Paul, or that Kobe -- assuming he's capable -- should get the assignment all the time. Nobody can check Paul by himself. They were effective against him in Games 2 and 3 because the whole operation worked in concert.
If they can't do it again Tuesday, the Lakers could be in for another frustrating night. At this point, it's fair to say that Paul is back to his pre-injury level of dominance.