The headline spills of sarcasm for those like Sheldon Cooper (Big Bang Theory) that have a hard time picking up on that kind of stuff.
In the last two games since the Los Angeles Lakers began their new journey without Kobe Bryant, the Lakers have done what they have failed to do most of the season and that is play 48 minutes of solid team defense. You can blatantly see that guys are communicating on defense, moving their feet with purpose on the perimeter and the biggest difference of all, Dwight Howard resembling the 3 time Defensive Player of the Year we once knew. The perimeter guys like Steve Blake, Jodie Meeks and for small stretches yesterday, Darius Morris, have been giving just enough resistance to allow time for the bigs to rotate to contest shots at the rim. Dwight Howard has 7 blocks in the last 2 games, but he’s altered or deterred so many more.
This season, the Lakers have been a team that ranks towards middle or bottom of the league in almost every important defensive category:
Lakers Defensive Ranks on the Season in parenthesis:
Opponents points per game: 101.0 (22nd)
Creating opponents turnovers per game: 12.4 (29th)
Opponents field goal percentage: 45.3%(14th)
Opponents 3pt percentage: 35.7% (14th)
This same team that continuously got torched from the perimeter kept a potent Houston Rocket team that is 2nd in the league in scoring at 106 points per game to 95 points even with an overtime period. The Rockets are one of the league’s best at shooting from distance, ranking 2nd in made 3s at 10.6 per game and 8th in percentage at 36.6; last night however, the Lakers held them to 8 for 33 from 3 which equates to a dismal 24.2%.
The Lakers over the last 2 games have been simply stingy on the defensive end:
Key team defensive statistics in the last 2 games:
Opponents FG%: 39.3%
Opponents 3PT%: 27.4%
Opponents 3 point FG made: 7 per game
The Lakers absolutely needed this type of defensive effort and performance because they were absolutely horrible offensively in the last 2 games. The Lakers offense has been awkward and clumsy over the last 2 games and that’s being nice. Without Kobe Bryant, the mid-range game is nonexistent and bail out shots to close out quarters or beat the shot clock have been hard to watch. The Lakers offense in the last 2 games has been pretty much shots from the post or long 3s, not much of anything else. Lakers have shot 36.5% from the field and 32.2% from the 3 point land in the last 2 games. On the season the Lakers rank 3rd in the league in 3 point shots taken per game at 24.6 per game; in the last 2 games they have exceeded their already high averages, shooting 27 and 32 respectively.
The Lakers’ offense is going to be a work in progress with such short time to adjust without Kobe Bryant who was such a big part of what they did on the offense end. It is not going to be easy to effectively distribute Kobe’s 27 points and 20 shots per game on a consistent basis to the rest of the squad. The San Antonio Spurs await the Lakers in San Antonio for their first round match up on Sunday, so with such short time it is unlikely the Lakers can make big strides offensively. That might not matter if the Lakers can continue to do what they have done in these last 2 games which is play inspired team defense.Dwight Howard must continue to be that beast on the defensive end and lead the team on that end as he has been over these last 2 games.
Maybe it’s far-fetched but the Lakers can give credence to the old saying of “Defense Wins Champions.” It’s really the only way this particular team can achieve such a feat.