Lakers still struggling with free throws, turnovers and defense
The Lakers (38-36) have fallen to ninth in the West, still close to catching the Utah Jazz (38-36) but with little-to-no margin for error over the final eight games of the regular season.
Injuries have been the biggest issue along the way as to “why” -- but “how” can be seen in the statistics.
The Lakers score an average of 102.4 points a game, sixth in the league. They shoot a respectable percentage from the field at 45.8% (10th overall) and 35.8% from three-point range (14th).
By tiebreakers, the Lakers have the 16th best record in the NBA, but their basic offensive numbers aren’t to blame.
The problems start at the free-throw line, where the Lakers are dead last at 68.8%. They also take more attempts than any other team (27.7 a game).
The free-throw problem falls primarily on the shoulders of Dwight Howard (48.6%).
Another key issue is turnovers, an area in which the Lakers have improved but are still ninth worst at 15.1 a game.
The Lakers also give up 44.6 points in the paint per game, third worst. They’re second to last in giving up fast-break points (15.9).
The math isn’t difficult -- turnovers that lead to fast breaks often lead to finishes at the basket.
The Lakers are 16th in the league in field-goal percentage defense, allowing teams to shoot 45.5%. The Lakers also give up 11.7 offensive boards a game, sixth worst in the league.
The Lakers aren’t taking care of the ball, and they’re not particularly adept at creating turnovers the other way. They’re 25th in forcing steals (7.1 a game).
Opponents turn the ball over against the Lakers just 13.1 times a game, third-lowest in the league.
The Lakers aren’t going to be able to fix these problems all at once. Steve Nash isn’t especially healthy (hamstring). Metta World Peace is out with a knee injury.
What the Lakers need to do over the last eight games is win, by hook or by crook.
When healthy, the Lakers have shown signs of being a much better team than their record, but they may not get the chance to field a truly healthy roster the rest of the way.
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