Early in this 2018-2019 NBA season, the basketball pundits are already declaring that Los Angeles Lakers’ coach Luke Walton’s job is in jeopardy because of the team’s poor 3 and 5 start.
Those of you who know me know that I love to examine statistics to see if that helps in pinpointing problem areas. There is nothing better, of course, than using the eye test and, when watching the Lakers so far this season, I am seeing a problem with their opponents’ strong rebounding. So, when I looked at the NBA total team offensive and defensive rebounding averages this season to date, I wasn’t surprised at what I found.
The rebounds average by team is 45.6 so far in this young season. The Lakers have only held three teams to under this average and, surprise, surprise, it accounts for their 3 wins: The Lakers held the Suns to 44 in their 131-113 win, the Nuggets also to 44 in the 121-114 win and Dallas to 40 in the 114-113 win.
I’m not saying there are no other problems (lack of killer defense, turn-overs, fouling their opponents, giving up leads in the 4th quarters), but I am saying that, while they are developing their team offense and defense and just getting to know each others’ games better, the importance of boxing out and out-rebounding their opponents is key to insure more wins.
Tonight, in the 114 to 123 loss at Memphis Grizzlies, Coach Walton said it all (maybe willing to let it rip because he was coaching tonight with the flu):
“We weren’t physically, mentally ready to match what Memphis brought tonight,” coach Luke Walton said. “And that’s disappointing because that doesn’t have to do with anything but the toughness to be engaged in a fight. … We let them kind of punk us all over the floor.”
My December 10th posting discusses the Lakers poor free throw shooting (they are currently last in the NBA, shooting slightly under 70%!). I provided stats in that blog to show how they could have won 5 more games if they would make most of their free throws.
Last night’s home game vs. Golden State Warriors is the clearest example of missed free throws costing them the game, which they ultimately lost by only 2 points in overtime. The Warriors sent them to the free throw line often, but the young Laker players could not deliver. They shot 22 of 35 from the free throw line (a terrible 63%). If they shot better at the free throw line, the Lakers would have won in regulation. The Lakers shot a higher field goal percentage last night (45% vs. the Warriors’ 40% and 40% from the three point line versus 32%), and the normally turn-over prone Lakers had fewer turnovers than the champs (12 vs. 14). Yes, there was a large disparity in rebounding with Golden State getting 16 more rebounds than the Lakers, but that just helped the Warriors stay in the game; it didn’t give them the “win”! But it does explain the Warriors’ low field goal percentage.
After the game I was waiting in line for an open stall in the ladies room and talking to my friend about how in the world the Lakers coaching staff can get better results from the players at the free throw line. Behind us in line was an attractive 40-something blonde all decked out in Kobe regalia (it was the night of retiring Kobe’s jerseys) and she heard us talking and, without missing a beat, she started yelling at me “….Luke Walton needs to do something about their free throwing!!!!…this is all his fault…I’m sick of this…I can’t hardly watch them….they’re never gonna win if they can’t shoot free throws”! At that moment, a stall opened up and I ran away from this overwrought female fan who continued to yell at me as I quickly ran away.
Luke, me and the blonde and obviously many more fans want to know what you and your coaching staff are going to do. You have taught them to play fast, with considerable effort and desire, but all for nothing if they can’t shoot free throws!!!!!!
This is the beginning of a very fun relationship between you and me. (That is of course if you agree with everything I say.) Who am I? I am THE #1 Laker Fan and retiree, Basketballlady. We won two in a row on the road. Can we make it three? It’s sure fun in Laker land. What other team has their own Zo, Zu and Kuz? I’ll be posting my first “Basketball Show” on my new YouTube Channel, Lady BS, after the game on Tuesday, so look out for that here and be sure to subscribe. This is gonna be good!!