The San Antonio Spurs won again on Wednesday night to move up 2-0 over the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Quarterfinals.
What’s interesting about this series so far is that both teams are forcing each other to take outside jumpers more than they’re used to. This was especially true in Game 2.
The Spurs are making their shots and the Lakers aren’t.
Shot selection in basketball is often determinant on a variety of factors such as basketball IQ, opponents’ defense, and the time left on the shot clock.
In Game 1, we (and Kobe via Twitter) noted that the Lakers weren’t pounding the ball enough inside. However, they were also making too many fundamental mistakes like turnovers and allowing the Spurs to get offensive rebounds. This resulted in the Spurs to take 12 more field goal attempts than the Lakers throughout the game. The Spurs simply had more scoring chances than the Lakers in Game 1 and to their credit, they did a great job converting.
Lakers Clean Up Their Game:
In Game 2, the Lakers cleaned up their act. They cut down on their turnovers (13, though five of them came in the 4th quarter.) They also grabbed 30 percent of all offensive rebounds available. At the end of the game, both teams had 82 field goal attempts.
That being said, the Lakers shot selection was still a hindrance in their quest to victory. They simply did not pound the ball enough. However, neither did the Spurs. In fact, the Spurs weren’t taking high percentage shots in Game 1, either.
As seen in the table above, both teams have been shooting from the mid-range more often in this series than they did in the regular season. The Lakers have not been utilizing their bigs and the Spurs have been unwilling to go inside the restricted area possibly because of Dwight Howard’s presence.
The table above shows shows how both teams are shooting less frequently from the restricted area. It acquiesces with the first table in that rather than pound the ball inside, both teams are taking more and more mid-range jumpers. The Lakers did stay away from the mid-range game to a greater extent in Game 2, but having 32.9 percent of their shots be mid-range jumpers is still way above their regular season average.
So, what was the difference between the Lakers and the Spurs then, if they shot similar type shots in Game 2 and in these playoffs?
The Lakers have been shooting 29 percent from mid-range in these playoffs. Meanwhile, the Spurs have been shooting over 40 percent. There’s no doubt that with Kobe Bryant in the lineup, the Lakers would not be shooting 29 percent from the mid-range. Kobe’s shooting ability may have made both of these games closer.
The Lakers best option without Kobe is to pound the ball inside and they haven’t been doing that. Now, it should be noted that Dwight Howard was in major foul trouble throughout Game 2. As a result, the Lakers couldn’t get great looks inside unless they tried to give it to Pau Gasol (and that was a disaster). However, why wasn’t Jordan Hill in the game? Why was Darius Morris in? Hill is a big physical guy who brings high energy. He could’ve opened up the post game for the Lakers. Morris, on the other hand, was a -14 in 24 minutes and was a major liability on defense.
The Lakers can’t afford to fall in love with mid-range jumpers with Kobe Bryant out of the lineup. Now, Steve Nash got a little dinged up and Jodie Meeks missed the game due to injury, too. That’s three injured shooters. Meanwhile, San Antonio has great shooters all around with Manu Ginobili, Matt Bonner, and Tony Parker. The difference of the game was five field goals made. It’s a small number but it was ultimately the difference of the game and one can see how having great shooters helped open up the game for the Spurs when the post was clogged by Howard and Gasol.