Why the Lakers and Celtics are struggling
MANILA, Philippines - Halfway into the 2012-2013 NBA season, there are two storied franchises struggling to meet expectations: the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics.
Let's analyze their performance so far below:
Los Angeles Lakers
With the addition of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, the Lakers expected to make a title run but are languishing in 12th place in the western conference.
It doesn't look like it will get any easier with 8 of the next 10 games on the road. They are playing at a fast pace -- like what coach Mike D’Antoni prefers -- but are struggling on defense. Los Angeles scores 108.4 points per 100 which is good for 6th in NBA, but they’ve been losing their games on the defensive end.
When LA acquired Dwight Howard, everyone assumed that his presence would prevent dribble penetration. That has not been the case as the Lakers allow 43.9 points in the paint per game -- the 3rd worst in the NBA. Howard’s defensive rebounding 8.8 hasn’t been this low since he was a 19-year-old rookie.
Returning from back surgery, he is struggling to contest shots at the rim. The breakdowns in the paint have resulted in teammates helping down low more often -- opponents counter this by passing out and hitting 3 pointers. Laker opponents hit 7.9 three per game, the 8th highest in the league.
Another issue with the Lakers is the continuing struggles of Pau Gasol. Gasol is naturally a Center but early on he was paired with Dwight Howard at power forward. Even during the Lakers last two titles, he was best at center along with Lamar Odom at forward, not with Andrew Bynum.
His lack of speed is exploited by quicker, smaller forwards out on the perimeter and on offense he is uncomfortable shooting from the high post. Gasol is taking a career high 4.2 shots from 16-23 feet range but only shooting 39%.
Kobe Bryant has recently begun guarding point guards in an effort to hide his vulnerability to off ball cuts. This has left Steve Nash to guard shooting guards. Offenses have been attacking this mismatch because even against opposing point guards, Nash has been a poor defender. Coach D’Antoni is famous for his offensive system but in order to become an elite coach he needs to figure out how to create a defense to accommodate his aging team.
Boston has historically been impressive on defense but that has slipped somewhat this year. In the last 4 years, their defensive rating (points they’ve held teams to in 100 possessions) has gone from top 5 to 8th this year. Last year they held opponents to 30.8% from three point territory but this year it has risen to 36.4%.
In one year they went from the best in the league to one of the worst.
The Boston offense has always struggled to score points. Boston struggles to create shots off the dribble mainly relying on assisted jumpers from Rajon Rondo. They are in the bottom of free throws attempted, three pointers made and shots made at the rim.
Boston’s bread and butter are jump shots from 16-23 feet: they are the only team in the league that hits in double digit shots from that area per game.
There are a few problems with this range between the three point line and the rim. Jump shots rarely yield fouls, as seen by the low amount of free throws the Celtics take. Jump shots from a closer distance do not yield as many offensive rebounds as three pointers because the misses tend to be closer to the basket giving defenders the advantage since they get inside position. Finally, because defenses have to cover three point shooters, it gives players more space to attack the rim.
It is hard to see how the Celtics could change their offense as their personnel are made for this type of offense; they’ve had pretty much the same style since 2008 but have always had a defense that led the league to cover up the need to score.
This year with the defense slipping slightly, the team cannot win using their offense. - Rappler.com